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Whatever You Want, Draco Malfoy

Chapter Text

Draco stared down at his empty glass in confusion. He couldn't remember it getting so very empty, which wasn't helpful at all in his quest to get wasted and forget, at least for a little while. He stood, the world spinning violently around him. Draco tightly gripped the back of his chair until the spinning slowed to a tolerable waver and started towards the bar, crowded with a thick mass of muggles.

He was edging through a maze of people when someone abruptly stepped in front of him. Draco's glass tumbled to the ground where it was kicked and shuffled out of reach before Draco's drink-addled mind could react.

“Shit,” Draco hissed, looking from the ground where the glass had been, up to the arsehole that had run into him, the arsehole with black hair and broad shoulders and glasses-

All the blood leave Draco's face and he stumbled backwards involuntarily. The man turned, apologies dying on his lips as he eyes widened in recognition. While Draco's will to live immediately died in the face of Harry Potter.

Draco spun on his heel, shoving through the crowd with frantic desperation to reach the door. He slammed outside, gulping down the cold air. His coat was still inside, on the back of his chair but he didn't care. He couldn't be in that building anymore, not with Potter there. He could get a new jacket. He just needed to go back and sleep, for a few days. Maybe a week.

He fumbled in his pocket for his wand and nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a hand wrap around his arm, holding him in place as firmly as a steel band.

“Malfoy?!” Potter said, pining Draco with his stupid green eyes, “What are you-?”

Draco took a step back, straining pointlessly against Potter's grip.

“I haven't seen you since the trials,” Potter went on with a frown, “No one has,” his brow furrowed, joining the frown, “Are you ok? Has anyone threatened you? I know some people can be hostile but for the most part our world has moved on.”

Draco quickly shook his head, “Let me go.” When Potter didn't relent Draco scrabbled at his hand, trying to pry Potter's fingers up.

“Is it me?” Potter asked, “I know we didn't get on before but we ought to be able to start over. We've both grown past school rivalries by now.”

Draco finally remembered he was a wizard and reached across to his pocket, trying to pull his wand out with his offhand.

Potter tsked and grabbed Draco's wrist. He changed his grip on Draco's arm so he was holding Draco by both wrists without much apparent effort.

“Cut it out, this is a muggle neighbourhood!” Potter hissed under his breath, dragging Draco to the corner of the building, “What are you doing in a muggle bar anyway?”

“Drinking,” Draco glowered, “That's what you do in bars.” He was nearly drunk enough to indulge in the petty and childish desire to slump down and drop all his weight in Potter's grip like a five-year-old throwing a tantrum. But since he wasn't quite that drunk he could only think about doing it and sulk.

Auror training had apparently been fantastic for Potter making him fitter than ever. Drinking and depression had not been quite so kind to Draco Malfoy who was sporting dark circles under his eyes and the too thin from forgetting to eat or substituting drink for food look.

“Are you ok?” Potter asked again, genuine concern creasing his face.

Draco just glared at him.

“Can I help?” Potter pressed with such earnestness Draco wanted to lurch forward and break Potter's nose with his forehead but couldn't quite convince himself he had the coordination for it.

“Yes.” Draco said flatly, “Let me go. That would be very helpful.”

For a second Draco thought he had won, then Potter's face took on something akin to fierce determination, which Draco found very off-putting, and held on firmly.

“I've been looking for you,” Potter said hesitantly, adding a strange vulnerability on top of the already unbearable earnest concern.

Draco groaned, “I can't,” he gave in to his earlier desire and slumped down, but Potter just lowered himself along with Draco so they were both on their knees in the middle of the sidewalk. “I just can't,” Draco lamented.

Potter had the audacity to look sad. “Fine...” he said softly, “there's just something I have to say first and then I'll go and I won't look for you again.”

“Say it then.”

Potter took a deep breath, “I-” he swallowed hard, “-after the war I did a lot of thinking, about the world, about myself , and I realized that I actually,” Potter paused and bit his lip nervously, “I realized, I fancy you, a lot. I probably have for a while.”

Draco frowned.

Potter loosened his grip until Draco's hand slid free and curled onto on his lap.

“Why are you so awful,” Draco whined, glaring petulantly at Potter.

“I know. You hate me,” Potter said with resignation, slowly standing up and brushing off his jeans.

“I don't hate you,” Draco snapped impatiently, “I love you.” he frowned at Potter's kneecaps, “Dumbass.”

“You do?” Potter said in surprise.

“Of course I do,” Draco gestured at all of Potter, “Fucking look at you.” he went back to glaring at Potter's knees, “I can't go back to the wizarding world, you're everywhere. It's unbearable. Loathsome.”

Potter bent over, grabbing Draco's hands in his and pulling him to his feet.

“Let me go,” Draco said.

“No.” Potter said firmly, his fingers curling around Draco's palms, warm and ticklish. “You're going to come back to my flat and in the morning when you're sober you're going to tell me you love me again, properly.”

“Do I have to?” Draco pouted.

Potter nodded, “Yes, you do.”

“If I'm good can I have a kiss?” Draco asked hopefully.

One side of Potter's mouth quirked up in a lopsided smile, “Sure.”

Draco perked up, “And coffee?”

“And coffee,” Potter assured him.

“What about a danish bun?” Draco asked.

Potter rolled his eyes, “I promise, you can have whatever you want, Draco.”

“Oh,” Draco blinked, “That's a dangerous promise to make.”

“I know. But I think it will be worth it.”

Draco was aware he had a head because it felt like it was about to fall off. A groan crawled out of his throat and over his tongue which tasted like shit, so he had those as well. His stomach clenched ominously. Check. He very carefully flexed his hands, still attached, which was always good. He tried the same with his feet and then moved his arms and legs. Felt a bit like he had been run over by one of those muggle car things, but one of the smaller ones, so that could have been worse. He was pretty sure he didn't care if he had eyes. Opening them in the morning was never worth it.

He buried his head into the suspiciously soft pillow. He was halfway to falling back to sleep when his traitorous brain pointed out that suspiciously soft pillows were not normally what he enjoyed after an evening of drinking in excess. In fact, suspiciously soft pillows were nothing like the gutters, park benches or thin strange smelling pillows he was used to. This particular suspiciously soft pillow smelled fantastic, like evergreen shampoo and some sort of spicy aftershave. His stomach wasn't certain about the smell being fantastic and Draco told it to shut the fuck up. Not that it listened.

Draco turned his head out of the pillow so the smell was less of an issue and carefully cracked an eye open. It was a mistake. He groaned and closed it again.

“Are you awake?” A voice called from somewhere, coming closer. It was a familiar voice and it boded ill.

Draco pried the eye open one more time as the voice came in the room. Black hair, green eyes, stupid glasses, scar on head, Scarhead. Draco closed the eye again and evaluated the possibility that he was still dreaming or just having a very vivid hallucination. Wouldn't be the first.

“Here's a hangover potion,” the hallucination said.

Draco looked again, there was a vial in front of his face filled with the yellowish brown potion that was so appetizingly associated with hangover remedies. He hadn't had an honest to gods potion in two years.

“No.” he croaked.

Potter sighed, “Why are you so difficult?”

“I'm not difficult. You are a moron,” Draco said hoarsely.

Potter clenched his jaw in that stupid stubborn expression of his, and pulled the cork from the vial, pressing it impatiently against Draco's mouth, “Just take it, you infuriating git.”

Draco kept his mouth closed, snaking a hand up and wedging a finger into the vial.

“You fucking-!”

“Do you-” Draco interrupted, “-have any idea what a hangover potion does to an alcoholic?”

Potter paused.

“Because it starts with R and ends in I P.” Draco pulled his finger out and wiped it off unceremoniously on Potter's sheets, “Like I said- Moron.”

He closed his eyes so he didn't see whatever expression Potter made but he heard him put the cork back in the vial.

“What can I get you then?” Potter said. “You look like shit.”

“I feel like it,” Draco sniggered into the pillow and immediately regretted it as pain shot through his head.

“Can you take any other potions? I have muggle pain pills too.”

Draco mentally ran through the ingredients of a basic painkiller potion, he was dead inside, not brain dead, unlike some people.

“Pain potion,” He said.

He listened to footsteps leaving and coming back. Potter tapped his hand with a new vial. Draco opened his eyes and took in the pale blue colour, he took the vial and turned it, reading the label to make sure.

“I can read a label you know!” Potter snapped.

Draco wiggled the cork out levering himself up onto one elbow, “Sure you can, Potter.”

He only drank half the vial to be on the safe side, pushing the cork and vial back into Potter's hands and collapsing back into bed. The potion shivered through him and took all the aching lingering pain with it. Draco sighed into the soft sheets. He had forgotten how lovely potions were.

“Get up,” Potter said.

Draco considered this and decided against it.

Hands pulled his sheets away.

Draco curled in on himself in the soft and once warmer bed, pulling his knees to his chest. The lack of sheets made him vaguely more aware that he had been stripped down to his pants. He felt a surge of fear and quickly reached up, relief flooding through him when he felt the chain around his neck with its small vault key.

“Get up,” Potter repeated.

Draco opened his eyes, which at the very least no longer felt like they were being stabbed with needles, and glared up at Potter., “I'd really rather not, actually.”

“Draco,” Potter said flatly.

“Ugh,” Draco grimaced, “don't say my name. Now we're both uncomfortable.”

“Just you, actually,” Potter said, looking almost amused.

“Well that's completely unfair.”

“Do you remember anything from last night?” Potter asked.

Draco squinted up at the ceiling and concluded, “No. Job well done me. I'm guessing it must have involved you.”

Potter's brow furrowed with worry, “How often do you drink that much?”

“Every night, Potter. I have a schedule to keep.” He lifted his bare wrist and tapped it meaningfully.

“A schedule? For what?” Potter asked.

“Drinking myself to death while I'm still young and pretty.” He managed to hold a straight face for about half a second before clutching his knees in a fit of giggles.

The bed sagged as Potter sat on the edge, “That's not funny,” he said quietly.

“Which part?” Draco raised an eyebrow, “The part where I called myself pretty or the part where my life is a dumpster fire?”

“You life isn't that bad, is it?” Potter asked hesitantly.

Draco rolled his eyes, “Potter, my father is in prison until he dies, my mother had her wand snapped, I'm a war criminal, all the Malfoy assets have been seized except a trust from my grandfather and I am a pariah in the only community I have ever known. What about that screams happy-times to you?” He shook his head with a sigh, “Don't be naive.”

“I-” Potter blinked in shock, “-I didn't know.”

“Now you do,” Draco said flippantly.

Potter pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead and then through the disaster that was his hair. He stood slowly and left the room looking like he had been hit by a percussion blast.

Draco snatched the blankets back up to his chin and burrowed into them, letting himself drift into a hazy half sleep. He wasn't stupid. Soon Potter would come to his senses and kick him out. So Draco was going to enjoy his soft bed for as long as he could.

Potter returned far too soon. Draco was pretty set on playing dead until he smelled coffee. He opened his eye just a crack and then all the way when he saw that Potter was carrying a tray with two mugs. He sat up and saw that the tray also contained a sugar, milk and an entire box of danish. Potter sat down on the end of the bed and put the tray between them.

Draco snatched up a raspberry danish from the box, taking a large bite out of it with a groan.

Potter had that worried expression on his face again and said, “It's fine, you know. You can have as many as you want.” He picked up a cup of coffee and took a sip, straight black.

Draco dumped milk and sugar into his cup until the coffee taste was suitably beaten into submission.

“Would you like some coffee with your milk?” Potter said.

Draco was not interested in Potter's sass, “Muggles have this thing called a latte. It's the best thing they've ever made.”

“What about indoor plumbing?” Potter said in what might be considered a friendly joking tone if Draco were stupid enough to consider the idea of Potter caring for him.

Draco raised an eyebrow, “I would rather shit in a bucket than give up lattes.”

Potter choked on his coffee and coughed himself red in the face. It was the finest entertainment Draco had ever been party to in a long time. He finished his danish and helped himself to another while Potter cleared his throat and chased it down with a few sips of coffee.

“So...” Potter cleared his throat again, “last night... you told me you loved me.”

“I did not!” Draco flinched back in offended dismay.

“You did,” Potter assured him, looking down at his coffee and toying with the handle.

“Lies,” Draco muttered, nursing substandard-actual-coffee-coffee, “I cannot imagine any scenario in which I would indulge such madness.”

“What about the scenario where I fancied you as well?” Potter looked disgustingly shy.

Draco narrowed his eyes and said warily, “I would also have never imagined that scenario because that scenario is impossible and quite frankly stupid.”

“Why is it stupid?” Potter asked and bit his lip.

Draco felt his dick twitch in interest at Potter being coy and attractive and, his mind oh-so-helpfully supplied, wearing an old sweater that slipped over one shoulder and sported several holes showing a glimpse of delicious olive skin. Draco told his mind and dick to shut up and took another bite of his danish.

“It's stupid because you are Harry-fucking-Potter and my life, as previously explained, is a dumpster fire.” The danish was excellent, it had cream cheese filling, “Are you going to kick me out?” Draco asked.

“What?” Potter's brow furrowed.

Draco rolled his eyes, “I was wondering when you're going to come to your senses and kick me out.”

The furrow deepened, “I'm not- I wasn't going to-”

“Brilliant,” Draco said briskly brushing the crumbs from his hands, “can I borrow your shower?”

Chapter Text

Draco carefully examined the bottles balanced in the cheap metal caddy in Potter's shower. He popped a bottle open and discovered Potter's preferred shampoo, which smelled like someone had shoved a pine cone into a bottle. There was no matching conditioner. “Of course,” Draco tsked under his breath.

There were two other bottles that looked like they had been sitting there for a while, considering the soap scum build-up, and neither looked to have ever been used. It was a nice wizard brand shampoo and conditioner, Lockhart's Luscious Locks, probably the only good thing the daft fame-monger had ever produced, likely because he just licensed his image out to the company.

Draco had no interest in smelling like Potter and driving himself further off the deep end so he opened the Lockhart and poured a healthy amount into his palm then worked it into his hair. It had an inoffensive flowery smell, vaguely jasminy. He was sparing with the conditioner and didn't leave it in for long, his hair was far too fine and thin for anything more.

Potter only had the most boring generic bar soap for scrubbing up and a single flannel that... well, it didn't smell wiffy, so that was a plus. After he had finished scrubbing himself pink and shiny, he took advantage of the soap and flannel to have a very satisfying wank. He took an inappropriate amount of glee in rinsing the flannel only the bare minimum and hanging it back up. The idea that Potter might use it later would be another new sparkly addition to his now burgeoning wank bank.

Draco stayed under the water until started turning lukewarm. He grabbed the only towel and dried himself absently while looking around. The bathroom was small and clean, the walls painted with vertical stripes of white and baby blue and tiles that had once been white but were taking on a yellowish hue. Draco tied the towel around his waist and went to the sink. He plucked Potter's toothbrush from the cup on the corner of the sink and dabbed on some rather strong cinnamon flavoured toothpaste.

Unsurprisingly, Potter didn't have a comb so he had to use his fingers to work out any tangles. Draco glared at his own expression, adding annoyance to the look of perpetual exhaustion. His hair was getting long, the sides had been cut tight but were now an inch long, the longer top was also flirting with the tops of his ears. He combed it to the side and smoothed it flat, thinking he'd have to keep an eye out for one of those cheap haircut coupons muggles sometimes shoved their newspapers.

Draco slipped out into the hall and inched the door open to peek into Potter's bedroom, swinging it wide when he found it empty. Without Potter to distract him he took a closer look around. The carpet was the generic beige of rentals everywhere but Potter had spiced it up with a large red oval rug with the Gryffindor lion rearing in gold. The heavy fluffy comforter was the same colour, edged with gold filigree. Draco wondered if anyone had ever bothered to tell Potter, or old Godric for that matter, that red was an obnoxious colour and the complete opposite of restful.

There was a small pile of books and magazines by the bedside table. Nothing interesting, muggle novels and quidditch magazines, a copy of the Quibbler for some reason. Both the bed frame and the dresser set against the wall looked like they had come from an estate sale or someone's attic. They were made of hand-carved heavy dark wood, old-fashioned and expensive. Draco poked through the closet, finding a few sets of formal robes and suits that Draco had a hard time imagining Potter wearing.

He rummaged through the dresser and found a pair of drawstring pyjama bottoms and pulled them on, utilizing the drawstring to keep them on his skinny hips. He pulled a baggy tee shirt on as well, so old it had been worn to cashmere softness and tossed the towel In the middle of the floor. His own clothes were nowhere to be seen. His wand had been helpfully left on the bedside table so Draco figured he probably wasn't being kept prisoner. He tucked it into his waistband in case he had to do a runner.

The walls had been decorated with a few landscape paintings of the sea, some calm, some turbulent, the waves moving and crashing against a painted stony shore. There was a collage of small photos over the dresser, all carefully framed and placed with a reverence that nothing else in the room had. They were older pictures, with old-fashioned people in old-fashioned clothes.

He recognized a young Professor Lupin, Draco had quite liked him as a Professor even if he had never admitted it aloud. A handsome bloke beside him looked familiar and Draco eventually placed him as a young Sirius Black, his mother's cousin. Draco had only ever seen his mugshots from when he escaped prison. Beside the two of them was a man that looked unnervingly like Potter, even had the same stupid glasses, but not the same eyes. The eyes matched a pretty redhead at his side. Draco was fervently glad Potter hadn't taken more after his mother, Circe forbid if the git were to look even more attractive. He was already enough of a bane on Draco's existence.

Draco went to the bedroom door, easing it open just enough to peek through. The bedroom opened into a large room that was half living room, half kitchen, a small table that could seat four vaguely divided the two areas.

He found a note and a plate in the kitchen. The note was for him, surprising enough on its own, but the note said he could make himself at home and that he could have the sandwich on the plate. Potter said he would be back later, he had to run an errand of some sort. Draco took the stasis charm off the sandwich and ate it as he snooped through the kitchen, opening every cupboard and drawer. It was all quite average and boring save for a rather large collection of loose leaf teas, from black bitter teas to light green teas flavoured with flowers and fruit. Enough poking around eventually yielded everything he would need to make a cuppa. He choose the tea named cabana boy because it made him snicker. It turned out to be a quite nice hibiscus and tropical fruit flavoured blend that Draco quite heartily approved of.

He took his mug of tea to the living room where there was a large plush couch bookended by two matching plush armchairs, all a deep burgundy colour. Draco flopping down on Potter's couch. The coffee table in the centre had stacks of game boxes underneath with muggle and wizarding games, mostly muggle. Aside from the few violent variants, wizards lagged far behind muggles in the board game department and Potter looked to have bought out both shops.

Potter also had an impressively large telly. Living out of motels and monthly rentals had made Draco a bit of a slag for shite daytime programs. He grabbed the remote and turned it on, flipping absently through channels and settling on a rerun of Coronation Street which always made him laugh.

He must have dozed off because he woke to Potter shaking him by the shoulder.

“Sorry to wake you, it's just... Are you ok?” Potter asked.

“Do you know any other questions, Potter? Or is that the only one you've got?” Draco said irritably. He felt like absolute shit and his stomach was a complete disaster.

“You look pale,” Potter persisted, reaching down and brushing a few errant locks of hair from his forehead. The tips of his fingers brushed Draco's skin and he shivered.

Draco waited for a beat to see if any more touching was going to be forthcoming and when it wasn't he pulled himself up into a sitting position. “I just need a drink and I'll be right as rain,” Draco said and looked around optimistically even though his search of Potter's flat thus far hadn't yielded any sign of alcohol. He hadn't even found any cooking sherry, though Draco would never be that desperate.

Potter chewed his bottom lip looking torn then finally said, “No.”

“No?” Draco didn't like the sound of that.

Potter was looking determined now, “No, Draco. You need to stop drinking.”

Draco scoffed in disbelief, “I am no longer at the point where I can just stop drinking,” he repeated mockingly. “The alcoholic remark wasn't a joke, Potter,” He looked at Potter's pretty face and sighed, “Probably best if I just see myself out.”

Draco braced himself on the cushions of the couch to stand up and found himself firmly bracketed in by Potter's arms braced on either side of him. Potter himself loomed in closer than was entirely comfortable. Draco could actually see the rough black stubble on his chin and only the look on Potter's face kept him from reaching up and touching it.

“St. Mungo's has a good detox program, they can help you,” Potter said.

“And in what universe would they even accept me as a patient?” Draco asked, tracing the line of Potter's jaw with his eyes.

“This one,” Potter said firmly, “I called in some favours.”

Draco blinked in shock, “Pardon?”

“They can take you right now,” Potter said.

Draco laughed right in his face.

Potter, for his part, couldn't have looked more shocked if he tried.

“Oh, come off it, Scarhead!” Draco said still snickering, “Did you really think I'd say yes?”

“Why not, Draco?” Potter asked, “Why?”

Anger raced through Draco. “Why?” he snarled, “Why?!” He sat up and shoved Potter's shoulders, pushing him back far more easily than he thought he would.

“Honestly, Potter, why should I?” Draco's voice dripped with disdain, “What's in it for me? Drinking lets me forget, it lets me feel better for a while and it's all I have right now. So tell me-” He leaned forward so he was only inches from Potter's face, “-why should I stop when I have absolutely nothing else?”

“Nothing?” Potter repeated numbly. He stood back, “Nothing?!” He repeated, his voice rising nearly to a shout, his eyes flashing, “I had nothing for eleven years!-” He threw his arms out, “-Eleven fucking years my aunt and uncle made me live in a closet under the stairs, do all the cleaning, all the gardening, the cooking once I could lift the frying pan and if I didn't- if I screwed up, they starved me, the locked me in in the dark with the spiders! I had nothing,” he jabbed a finger at himself and then pointed viciously at Draco, “-you don't get to complain about nothing!”

Draco paused briefly to make sure the tantrum was over before speaking. “Do you want me to feel sorry for you?” he asked.

“What?!” Potter jerked back like he had been slapped.

“You never seemed like the type to me,” Draco rose as gracefully as he could manage and brushed a mote of dust from his shirt, surreptitiously checking to make sure his wand was still in his waistband. He went on, “Or, maybe it's a contest?”

“A contest-?” Potter repeated blankly.

“A who-suffered-more-contest,” Draco clarified and went on with a false pleasantness that would have made his mother proud, “If so, you won! Congratulations! Your life was utter fucking shite.” He raised his eyebrows, “You always beat me at everything else, why not this?”

Potter shook his head, “It's not-”

“Of course it's not a fucking contest!” Draco snapped, “So don't act like it is and come snarling for sympathy!”

Potter took a step backwards and Draco almost felt as if he had won the argument which, was as deeply satisfying as it was unsettling.

Draco took a deep breath to steady himself and said as calmly as he could manage, “It's my pity party right now, not yours. So tell me why, or let me leave.”

Draco wondered in the growing silence, who he was more disappointed in, Saint Potter or himself for stupidly getting his hopes up. Definitely himself.

He did his best disaffected shrug, walking around the couch toward the door, “Your shower and danish were lovely, Potter. So thanks for that.”

“You're just going to leave?” Potter said numbly, “What about your suit?”

Draco snorted, “Keep it. I picked it up in a boot sale for twenty quid.” His shoes hadn't disappeared unlike his clothes and he pulled the scuffed oxfords on his bare feet.

Potter rounded the couch, leaning on the corner as if it was the only thing keeping him up.

Draco tapped the toes of his shoes on the floor out of habit when he stood. The lock slid back with a heavy metal snick as he flipped the knob.

“What about me? Potter asked.

Draco paused, hand on the doorknob, “What about you?”

“Would you give up drinking for me?” Potter asked.

“Is this your new safety campaign? Save the world one drink-addled sop at a time?” Draco sneered, pulling the door open. “Fuck you-”

The door jerked from his hand, slamming shut at the twitch of Potter's wand. Draco reached for his own wand but Potter was there, his hand gripped around Draco's wrist like a vice, so tight a twinge of pain shot up his arm. Draco pulled back and Potter pushed him back just as quickly until his back collided with the door, bouncing off the heavy wood. He stumbled, a foot sliding out from under him. Potter caught his other shoulder, slamming forward, the press of his body and hand holding Draco up as he scrabbled back to his feet.

Potter froze. Shock and surprise writ across his face as his grip on Draco went slack all at once. But he didn't let go. He didn't step away. “I-” Draco watched Potter's throat bob as he swallowed. “I- Fuck, I didn't mean to-”

“Get on with it, Potter,” Draco muttered to the sound of his own thudding heart. His breathing was jagged from nerves he'd be damned if he'd show to fucking Scarhead.

Potter's jaw clenched. Draco fancied, if he just believed hard enough, he might even hear Potter's teeth squeak as they ground together.

“Not as Harry Potter.” Potter ground out, searching Draco's eyes, “For me. For the bloke you fancy.”

Draco grimaced.

Potter's grip on his hands twitched, “For the bloke who fancies you.”

“You. Are. Off. Your. Nut,” Draco said a beleaguered sigh. “Even if for some mad reason you fancied me back in school, which I don’t believe- I'm not him any more,” he shook his head, “For fucks sake, Potter, I know you're hard of thinking but even you should be able to see that.”

Potter dropped his head on Draco's shoulder, letting out a huff of amusement, “Do you know the last time I lost my temper?”

“Why the fuck would I know that? Or care for that matter,” Draco said.

Potter's shoulders shook as he laughed silently and eventually lifted his head. He shifted his weight against Draco and suddenly the meaning of his touch changed, from something aggressive to something suggestive and hungry. Draco shivered despite himself and as a nervous anxiety settled into his gut. Potter moved his head closer, his green eyes startlingly bright behind his glasses and Draco quickly turned his head away.

“Do it for me,” Potter whispered in a rush of warm air on his neck.

Draco sucked in a startled breath, his chest heaving against Potter's.

“Draco,” Potter purred, leaning forward and brushing his lips against Draco's jaw.

He shivered again, biting down on the whimper that wanted to crawl out of his throat. It was torture, sweet divine torture, but torture none-the-less. “Let me go,” he said hoarsely.

Potter chuckled, nipping Draco's earlobe and letting the sensitive skin pull through his lips. Draco couldn't stop the groan which turned into a gasp as Potter gently blew on his damp skin.

“Let me go,” Draco said again, his voice barely a whisper.

Potter pulled his head back, shifting his weight and pressing his thigh between Draco's legs and against his hard cock. Draco's hips twitched without his permission letting him feel Potter against his thigh.

“Do you really want me to?” Potter asked and, perhaps picking up in the fact that Draco had completely lost the plot, elaborated, “To let you go?”

“That's a trick question,” Draco said sounding almost as breathless as he felt.

“How so?” Potter asked quietly, licking his lips in a way that should have been illegal.

“Because,” Draco said quietly, “I want both and-” he added absently, “-also to sink into the floor and disappear. Though that's fairly typical. Also, my gut feels like it might be staging a revolt inside me.”

Potter let go of Draco's wrist, taking his hand, “You're shaking.”

“I'm also sweating, they're withdrawal symptoms. You're not special, Potter,” Draco sneered.

“Draco,” Potter said.

“Don't,” Draco groaned.

Worry flooded through Potter's voice which was exceptionally impressive because he only said, “Draco.”

“Just don't,” Draco muttered feeling his resolve crumble and already hating himself for it. He knew it would only end in disappointment for both of them, once Potter realized he couldn't fix Draco, that there was nothing left of Draco Malfoy that wasn't irrevocably broken beyond anyone's help.

“Do this for me and you can have whatever you want, Draco,” Potter said quietly.

“Whatever I want?” Draco raised his eyebrows, daring to look the git head-on for the first time since the whole door debacle had started. “That's a dangerous thing to promise.”

Potter smiled faintly and chuckled, “That's what you said last time.”

“Last time?”

“When you were drunk. I promised you coffee, danish, a kiss, and whatever you wanted,” Potter said, his gaze unnervingly locked on Draco's.

Draco's brow furrowed faintly, “It seems I haven't received all the things on that list.”

“Well,” Potter said, “you haven't fulfilled your side of the bargain.”

Draco waited, not interested at all in taking the bait.

Potter sighed, “Last night I said I'd give you all of those things if you told me you loved me again.”

“Fat chance,” Draco said immediately.

Potter smiled ruefully, “I suppose in this case I'm willing to change the terms, just do the detox program-”

“-And I can have whatever I want?” Draco finished.

“Whatever you want,” Potter repeated.

“What about the kiss?”

“After,” Potter said firmly.

Draco frowned at this sticking point, “No.”

Potter rolled his eyes and leaned forward, pressing his mouth against Draco's in a quick chaste kiss. Draco found himself leaning forward as Potter pulled away, chasing after the brief warmth.

“If you want more than that-” Potter trailed off, looking irritatingly smug.

Draco slumped back against the door, trying to shake off the flush on his cheeks, and muttered sulkily, “I am emotionally compromised and you are taking advantage.”

Potter let out a bark of laughter, his eyes shining with amusement, “Emotionally compromised? Is that what you call love?”

Draco let himself slip deeper into the sulk, literally, sliding down the door so he was staring at Potter's chest.

“The detox program, will you do it?” Potter asked, all pleased and hopeful and so attractive it was downright unpleasant.

“...Fine,” Draco muttered.

“Really?” Potter asked.

Draco stared straight ahead at Potter's tatty jumper, “I'm not saying it again, Potter.”

“Thank you, Draco,” Potter said softly.

“Fucking wanker,” Draco said sourly.

Chapter Text

Apparently, what Potter meant by a good detox program was them keeping him asleep most of the time and on a cocktail of potions that left him in a hazy stupor when he was awake. Of the first three days, he had only one concrete memory, of throwing up quite violently and then promptly passing out. The fourth and fifth day they tapered off on the potions so Draco could thoroughly enjoy the experience of feeling like a wrung out flannel. The last two days they spent fattening him up with rich foods and nutrient potions until he felt like a suckling pig being prepped for winter solstice.

The head healer was a rather robust woman that seemed particularly enamored with lecturing addicts on their poor life choices as if they weren't aware they were all complete fuck-ups by that point. Draco quite enjoyed pointing this out, amongst other things. He considered it a good day if he could make the old warship so furious she psychically had to leave or risk cuffing him round the ear. Draco reasoned this was not at all his fault, they had nothing in the way of entertainment except a handful of magazines that were months old by the time they reached the rejects ward. The room would have greatly benefited from a telly or even a simple wireless.

The staff seemed far too relieved to the see the back of him once the week was out and he made sure to flip them off on the way out for good measure.

“They're just trying to help,” The mediwitch said reproachfully as she pulled him by the arm to the front desk.

“I'm simply don't want them to cry when I leave.” Draco said flippantly.

Her grip loosened on his arm, “You know you've got to come back for the group support meeting twice a week.”

“Don't remind me,” Draco groaned.

Her steps slowed once they reached the front desk for the mind healing wing of the hospital, “Is someone here to pick you up? Normally we like to go over a few things with your family before you leave.”

The small waiting room, with its sherbet orange chairs, the backs too short for anyone except children under the age of eight to sit in comfortable, currently contained three people, an old man hunched over in a doze and a mother with her child.

“You'd think working with people like me would make you more used to disappointment,” Draco said, doing his best to tamp down his own wriggling disappointment.

The mediwitch sighed and smiled up at him, “On the contrary, I've found working here to be quite inspiring. People are stronger than you give them credit for, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Delusional,” Draco muttered.

The doors burst open startling the old man from his nap. The mediwitch and receptionist harshly shushed the newcomer who had apparently been running in his haste.

It was Potter. All flushed, with his hair rumpled and eyes shining. He spotted Draco and held up a coffee cup with a triumphant grin.

Draco scowled, trying to ignore the completely unwanted warm fluttery feeling in his chest.

“H-Harry Potter?!” the mediwitch squeaked, letting Draco go and covering her mouth with both hands.

“Sorry about the noise,” Potter said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck and generally being a loveable-boy-hero-scamp.

“It's fine!” The mediwitch said quickly.

“Can we help you, Mr. Potter, sir?” The receptionist said right after, their words nearly running together.

Draco rolled his eyes, “It's not fine. Running in a hospital, bursting into places. You're a damn nuisance, Potter.”

“Don't talk to him like that!” The mediwitch hissed under her breath, losing the gentle bedside manner she had persisted in showing all through his stay.

Draco smirked triumphantly.

This completely set her off, “He's a hero! He saved us all, unlike you-! You-!”

“Filthy deatheater?” Draco suggested, quite pleased. He had pretty much given up breaking her but it was comforting to know there really were no purely kind people. Except perhaps Luna Lovegood but Draco rather suspected she was half forest nymph.

Potter frowned slightly, “You're not-”

“Deatheater? I was quite. I would not recommend it. Filthy, that's debatable,” he looked down at his clothes, the freshly laundered suit Potter had returned to him before toting him off to boredomville, “They only use cleaning spells. I haven't had a proper shower in a week.” he frowned and plucked a fuzzy pill from his front, “I hate cleaning spells, they make me itch.”

Potter held out the coffee. It took what was left of Draco very minimal willpower to take it like a normal human being and not to snatch it from his hand like a starved animal. He popped the plastic top off and was met with the reassuring vision of foam and a pale brown liquid below.

“Flavoured?” Draco asked putting the top back on.

Potter shrugged, “I just got the special.”

Draco took a sip, “Hazelnut mocha.”

“It's alright?” Potter asked looking hopeful.

Draco sighed, “Yes, Potter, it's fine.”

“Ah, um...” the mediwitch wavered uncertainly, her face still a little red from her earlier outburst.

“Right. Paperwork, forms or what have you,” Draco said primly going over to the reception desk and leaned over the polished wood, “Let's just get on with it so I can get my wand back and get out of here.”

“You, uh-” she kept glancing back at Potter nervously as she followed him to the desk, “-you still need to attend the group counseling,” She set a packet on the counter and opened it, pointing out a piece of paper that looked to have been duplicated from a duplicate of a duplicate and was beginning to look blurry, “We have meetings three times a week, saturday, tuesday, and thursday and to avoid relapsing you should come to at least two a week for the first thirty days. They'll be the hardest for you.”

“I am agog,” Draco muttered, not bothering to pull his mouth away from the lip of his latte.

Potter moved to her other side, taking the paper Draco was ignoring, “saturday, tuesday, and thursday?” He ran a finger down the schedule to the three days.

“You're here for Mr. Malfoy?” The mediwitch asked quietly, not quite masking all her horror in her voice the notion. “Draco Malfoy?”

“Yes, is that a problem?” Potter said, glancing over at her flatly.

“No!” she said quickly, “Of course not... just unexpected.”

“I'm his new pity project,” Draco said and when she whipped her head around to look at him he gave her a brilliantly false smile.

“You're not,” Potter said stiffly.

The mediwitch's head whipped back round to him.

Draco smirked, “Oh, you would rather I told her the real reason then?”

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Potter growled.

A pleased little shiver went down Draco's spine and busied his smirking mouth with more excessively sweetened caffeine.

“What else?” Potter asked the mediwitch.

She startled and went back to her folder pulling out a few more copied info sheets, “The first thirty days are going to the highest for risk of relapse. Mr. Malfoy will likely suffer from sleep trouble, difficulty getting to sleep, nightmares, waking with shakes and sweating and unable to get back to sleep. Alcohol is a depressant but not a very good one, it disrupts deep sleep and healthy sleeping patterns. Apothecary grade dreamless sleep can be used but only if he's gone a few days with no or very little sleep.” She gave Potter another paper, apparently quite happy to ignore Draco entirely, “It's best for him to try and re-establish normal sleep patterns without aids. Avoid caffeine after five to be safe.”

Draco rolled his eyes at what great fun that sounded like.

“Stay away from alcohol, of course. Take care if you go out or meet up with friends, avoid bars and even restaurants that serve alcohol. The very best thing would be for him to get back to a normal life with routines and schedules.”

Normal,” Draco snorted under his breath.

The mediwitch sighed as she put everything back in the folder and gave it to Potter, “Good luck, Mr. Potter.” Then she turned back to Draco with a wary expression, “Do come to the meetings, Mr. Malfoy. The staff may find you... difficult sometimes but the other patients are very fond of you and would be happy to see you again.”

Draco shrugged noncommittally.

“He'll be there,” Potter answered for him with an annoying amount of certainty.

Draco went through the paperwork, signing whenever he was told to in order free Mungo's from any legal responsibility to his sorry arse. Finally, the receptionist retrieved his wand from a magic signature lock box and handed it over.

“I'm surprised,” Potter said tentatively, “that you didn't go off on me when I, er, told you to shut up.”

“I'm surprised you showed up. Must be a day for surprises.” Draco said, giving his wand a little swish before putting it in his pocket.

“I would've visited but only family members were allowed in the ward,” Harry said regretfully.

Draco had to roll his eyes again, leading the way through Mungo's long meandering hallways from the back of the hospital, where they had stuck the mind healing ward, to the front doors where the apparition zones were located.

“Why didn't you get mad?” Potter asked again, not interested in dropping the subject.

“This may be shocking for you to hear Potter, but I do in fact know when I'm being a complete and utter pillock,” Draco glanced back, pleased to see a look of surprise on Potter's face, “I like getting a rise out of people. Once I get what I want, I back down. I was a bit too stupid to do that when I was younger.”

Potter reached out and caught Draco's arm, holding it loosely but drawing Draco back to his side, “You wanted to see me get mad?”

“Merlin, you think highly of yourself,” Draco snorted, “Of course it's not just you. Did you see the mediwitch go off? I've been working on her for days, wasn't certain she had a dark side.” He sighed with satisfaction.

Potter forced him to a stop in the middle of an empty hallway, “A dark side? You piss people off, hurt them, make them angry- for amusement?”

Draco glanced down at Potter's grip on his arm and back up at Potter, “I've never been a good person, Potter. I'm not certain where you got the idea that I was.” He saw Potter start to open his mouth and cut him off, “Or thought I was better than I am. No one is as good or nice as they like to seem. You especially.”

“Me?” Potter said in surprise.

“Yes you,” Draco sneered, “That mediwitch and receptionist, ready to kiss your feet when they would have lectured anyone else for being an arsehole. Everyone treats you like your special when you're just a mess in human form who was unfortunate enough to get sucked into a prophecy.”

Potter was looking at Draco strangely, an almost hungry hopeful look that made him squirm.

Draco added, “I'd rather have dragon pox than be the subject of a prophecy. Fate can go suck a dick.”

Potter let out a bark of surprised laughter, his eyes shining with amusement, “Fate can go suck a dick.”

“So we agree on one thing. I'm quite certain we can build the perfect delusional relationship out of that,” Draco said mockingly.

“Draco,” Potter said quietly, eliciting a grimace from Draco.

Draco sniffed, pulled his arm free and march off down the hallway. Potter only hesitated a half a second before jogging to catch up and to walk by Draco's side.

“Where are you going?” Potter asked.

“My place, if they haven't thrown everything in the gutter. Rent was due a few days ago.” Draco answered.

“If you had told me I could have gone and sorted it for you.”

Draco looked at Potter sidelong.

“What?” Potter raised his eyebrows.

Draco shook his head, “As it was, I wasn't planning on staying there another month.”

The hallway became more littered with people as they went. The main atrium was particularly crowded, with the welcome witch, busy healers, mediwitches and wizards and, of course, all the nasty sick people. It took a few seconds before Potter was noticed but once he was, it was a bit like a wave; drawing back in silence away from him and then rushing forward in a wall of whispers.

Draco looked over at Potter. He seemed to be pretending not to notice, keeping his expression blank and focused on the apparition zone tucked in next to the door. Some daft girl drew herself up with the intention of approaching Potter and Draco shot her a scathing glare that stopped her in her tracks. Draco swept the rest of them with the same look, daring them to try and approach. He wondered if this was how his father had felt all the time, before he went and cocked everything up.

The line for exit apparition dissolved in front of them. Potter hesitated, no doubt feeling guilty about jumping the line. Draco took Potter's arm forcing him to either come along or drag Draco back. He came along and once they were both in the center of the circle, Draco tightened his grip on Potter's arm and side-alonged him.

They landed in a filthy alley with a muffled crack still ringing off the concrete walls around them. Potter's knees buckled on landing and he nearly faceplanted onto the pavers. Draco was very tempted to let him but held on and managed to keep them both upright.

“I hate side-along,” Potter said faintly, still looking a little dizzy and pale.

Draco raised an eyebrow, “Noted.” He let himself lean on Potter's shoulder a little, enjoying the muscles he could feel outlined where they were touching. When Potter straightened, Draco reluctantly let him go and headed out to the street.

Potter, once again trotted to catch up, looking around curiously.

“Don't gawp and try not to make eye contact with anyone,” Draco warned him, “This area's full of chavs with nothing better to do than start fights.”

“You live here?” Potter said, trying not to sound dismayed and failing horribly.

“Rent's cheap,” Draco said with a shrug.

They crossed a few narrow streets to a large dingy apartment block that had been built in the seventies and had once been a hotel. Draco pushed through the door which had had a lock on it though it likely had never worked for more than a day before some pisser forced it open.

“Watch for needles,” He warned Potter as he started up the stairs.

“Ay, whose your friend, Posher?!” A voice called down.

Draco stopped and leaned over the railing to look at Martha, The older woman leaned out her door to get a better look at him. He called down to her, “My sugar daddy, and you'll do well to keep your filthy hand off him!”

She snorted, laughter bubbling out of her like a fountain.

Draco grinned and gave her a jaunty wave before continuing up. They made it another two stories before Tommie showed his grubby, pocked face, panting at the exertion of catching up.

“Rent's due, Posher,” Tommy said breathlessly.

“I'll have it to you, fucking wank,” Draco shot back.

Tommy narrowed his eyes, “Today or you're out on your arse.”

“Eat a dick,” Draco said flatly, flipping him off and leaving him on the landing. Potter trailed after him looking more lost than usual.

He nodded to Andy sitting on the next set of stairs.

“Eh, bruv,” Andy said smiling a bit blankly, high as a kite if his bloodshot eyes were anything to go by, “Been gone ages, 'avn't ya?”

“Bang up a spell,” He nodded back to Potter, “My new parole officer.”

Andy held up his hands, “Haven't done nothin' eh?” he let something out halfway between a laugh and a cough.

Draco rolled his eyes, “Get off the stairs, Andy. A one-eyed dog could see you're fucked up.”

“Yeah, prolly,” Andy said, leaning back against the wall with a vague shrug.

Potter nodded faintly and followed Draco closer as he continued up.

Draco headed down the narrow dimly lit hallway at the next landing. He glanced both ways before taking his wand out and spelling the door open. He had never bothered using the key that had come with the place.

Potter pushed the door closed behind them, letting out a breath. Draco flipped the lights on, walking past the tiny bathroom to the rest of the flat which was composed entirely of a bed taking up one corner, a small old telly on top a clapboard dresser and a tiny kitchenette on the wall with a half fridge, small sink and a range top with two burners. The wall with the dresser that ran down to the door was mostly covered with empty glass bottles, stuck up with sticking spells. Mostly whiskey, but the occasional bottle of vodka or brandy if he had been after a change of pace.

Potter stared at the wall for a long time, a hard set to his jaw.

Draco said nothing, he wasn't going to be ashamed. He absolutely refused to. Potter knew what he was getting into, or should have. He was hopelessly naive.

Draco pulled out the top dresser drawer with his two other sets of clothes and a weeks worth of pants and socks, and set it on the bed, heading to the bathroom and collecting all his toiletries into a plastic Tesco bag. He set the bag on top of the drawer and shrunk the lot small enough to slip into his pocket.

“Shall we leave?” Draco suggested, wanting to tug on Potter's arm but not feeling quite like he had any right to. “We can just apparate out.”

Potter turned away from the wall, “Why did we walk here then?”

Draco rolled his eyes, “Walls are too thin, moron. I can set up a silencing spell before leaving but not the other way round.” He looked around the small dingy room he had lived in for over a year, not feeling much about it, except a trickle of relief at not having to see it again, “Did you know a loud apparition sounds rather like a muggle firearm? Having my room searched once was plenty for me thank you.”

Potter nodded, “Yeah, we have a lot of problems with the police and the statue of secrecy because of that.” He paused briefly, “You don't need to do anything else? I mean with the landlord or something?”

Draco snorted derisively, “Yeah, right.”

He glanced around one more time as well before offering his hand to side along Draco.

Draco raised his eyebrows.

“You're coming back with me,” Potter hesitated, “Aren't you?”

Draco waited longer than he really needed to before replying, “I suppose.” He couldn't quite suppress the wicked grin that crept onto his face before he took Potter's hand.

Potter's brow furrowed, “What are you up to-?”

“Well...” Draco said gleefully, “We can't leave all these bottles stuck to the wall can we?”


Draco whipped his wand out at the wall with a deft and definite, “Finite.

The bottles fell to the ground with a resounding smash. Draco had spelled them all with a modified egg cracking spell after sticking them up and even the closest to the ground shattered into tiny flecks of fragmenting glass, creating a growing, crashing, clattering mound of glass, flowing out from the wall as he watched.

Before Draco could see the end of it, or even the proper middle, he felt Potter's arm ring his middle, pulling him back and tight as he apparated them back to Potter's apartment.

“Bloody fucking hell...” Potter said faintly, letting Draco go and stumbling backward.

Draco was giggling, had been giggling without realizing it, and let himself collapse down to sit on the floor and laugh himself silly.

“Why?” Potter said.

Draco wiped his eyes with his palms, “Oh, why not, Potter?”

“Someone has to clean that up you know.”

Draco rolled his eyes, “Tommy's a dick. I've been planning to do that since I stuck up the first bottle. It'll give the arsehole something useful to do.”

Potter shook his head.

“Are you going to kick me out?” Draco asked.

“No!” Potter snapped, and turned away, rubbing the back of his neck roughly. “Why are you like this?”

“Why are you like this?” Draco shot back.

Potter bristled like a cat, “I'm not-! There's nothing-! I haven't done anything!”

Draco raised his eyebrows, “As you wish, Mr. Doormat.” He pushed himself up, going over to the couch and resizing his drawer, taking out the sack of toiletries and tucking the drawer out of the way under the couch.

He was going to take his things in the bathroom but Potter was blocking his way once again.

“What is it this time, Potter?” Draco said impatiently.

“What did you mean by doormat?” he asked.

Draco groaned, closing his eyes briefly to deduce the most succinct way of explaining one of a myriad of Potter's problems, “When was the last time you did something selfish?” He cut Potter off with a single twitched eyebrow, “I mean, really truly selfish, entirely for yourself without a single thought about anyone else.”

He stepped around Potter, who looked to have possibly broken, to go to the bathroom, putting his products next to Potter's and taking up quite a bit of the sink counter. Not there was a lot of countertop to begin with, Potter just had nothing other than a razor and shave lotion. It was no wonder he was always stubbly if he was using muggle methods rather than a good shaving charm.

“Any luck?” Draco asked as he stepped back out. For a second he thought Potter had gone, then saw him sitting a bit hunched over in a chair, his head propped in his hands.

Potter scrubbed his face and drew his hands through his hair with a faint sigh. He looked up at Draco as he dropped himself wearily on the couch, following his every move.

“Just you, probably,” Potter said.

Draco snorted, laying back on the plush cushions and carefully stretching out, “You just want to save me.”

“A nice side benefit,” Potter smirked faintly, “Mostly, I just want you.”

Draco shivered.

“You don't believe me, do you?” Potter asked.

Draco did his best to keep his gaze pinned on the ceiling, once white and now yellowing just slightly with time, “If you expect nothing, you are never disappointed,” he sighed to himself, “Plath said that, or something like it.” His throat tightened fiercely. He felt so tired. ...Gods above. A drink, that would have fixed everything, at least a little, for a while.

The ceiling was eclipsed by Potter's wild hair, his glasses slipping down his nose as he leaned over Draco.

“Potter?” Draco said, a little alarmed at his sudden proximity.

The couch creaked as Potter braced his arms on either side of Draco's head, “I owe you a kiss, don't I?”

“You kissed me already,” Draco said.

“Not properly,” Potter contended.

Draco searched Potter's eyes. “You owe me nothing,” he said quietly.

Potter hesitated, “...and if I want to be selfish?”

“Then be selfish but I'm not a debt to be paid,” Draco said coolly, somehow managing to keep his voice even.

“Can I kiss you?” Potter asked.

Draco was fairly certain his voice had died deep in the depths of his throat but he managed to nod.

Potter's knee settled on the cushions between his legs, sliding up until Potter was pressed between his thighs. Draco felt and reacted, spreading his legs, shifting his hips to squeeze around Potter's thigh, wordlessly urging him higher. Potter obliged pushing just that little bit higher so his knee brushed Draco's balls and then pressed as Potter leaned forward.

Potter shifted from his hands, down onto his elbows, his chest sinking down just above Draco's. Draco tried to stifle the groan through his teeth, tilting his hips to get just a little more friction. His spine arched, his stomach pressing against Potter's, warm and smooth, breathing against one another.

The kiss was almost incidental, a cherry on top of something already so divine Draco wasn't sure how he was still breathing. The second kiss wasn't, nor the third and Draco discovered that Potter tasted sweet. He tangled his hands in Potter's teeshirt, eventually circling them around his back to hold Potter close.

Potter pulled back with a laugh, “I'm gonna fall if you keep pulling like that.”

“Then fall,” Draco said, trying for flippant but ending up with breathless.

Potter chuckled and kissed him again, slowly relaxing onto Draco.

Draco sank into the cushions, the weight pushing him down, shortening his breathing. Potter was shorter but so much stronger than Draco and he liked the feeling although he couldn't kiss and breath at the same time anymore. Potter shifted over against the back of the couch lifting the worst of the pressure.

“You ok?” Potter asked quietly.

Draco nodded, keeping one hand firmly gripped in Potter's shirt in case he got any ideas about running off. He allowing the other to slowly roam across the planes of his back, tracing Potter's shoulder blade.

“You finished detox,” Potter said softly.

From where Draco was he could see Potter's eyelashes flutter as Draco dragged his fingernails over the thin cotton. He felt Potter relaxing even further, almost against his will as if he had just taken a calming draught.

“And you're here,” Potter murmured faintly against Draco's collarbone.

“Is there a point to this, Potter?” Draco said.

Potter huffed a laugh that made his whole body twitch, “I'm happy.”

A great many snarky things rose to the top of Draco's mind, mainly that he didn't care about Potter's happiness. But that was the whole problem. Because he did care, had always cared, and it would only hurt him in the end. Just like it always did.

Draco kept his sarcasm and cruelty to himself. Just this once. Letting go of Potter's shirt, he ran both hands along Potter's back, eliciting a shiver, and said, “Turn on the telly would you?”

Chapter Text

Draco woke with a gasp, the nightmare fizzling off into shadowy undefined bollocks before he could even be certain what it was about. His shirt was stuck to his back with sweat and he pulled it away from his skin with a grimace. It was a thin ratty tee shirt, too dark to see the colour or design but it was large enough to fit a troll.

Draco's grimaced deepened as he recalled it was Potter's; was because Draco had no intention of ever returning it, grimace because fucking Potter. He pushed the blankets off himself and carefully swung his legs off the couch, trying to remember the layout of Potter's apartment in the dark. He could use lumos but that both risked fucking up the muggle electronics and possibly waking Potter up and he didn't feel like being nattered at.

So he held onto the couch as he went round the back and aimed himself at, hopefully, the kitchen. He managed to grab hold of Potter's table rather than hit it with his foot or shin which was his absolute worst nightmare scenario. His nightmare very well could have been about stubbing his toe in the dark. It could have.

It was easier when he reached the cozy horseshoe shaped kitchen, able to just follow the counter until he found the stove and clicked on the small range hood light. Only one of the two bulbs worked and cast a faint yellowy pool of light just around the stove, dying out before making it to the edge of the kitchen tile.

Draco put the kettle on to boil and sat on the counter top, cabinet open as he sorted through the teas and looked for one that was caffeine free. Not that he imagined he'd get back to sleep. It was just- well... Potter hadn't kicked him out yet. It couldn't hurt to play by the rules, a bit.

He found a chamomile tea and dropped a teabag unceremoniously into a large green mug emblazoned with, Holyhead Harpies in gold then proceeded to glare at the logo.

Girl Weasley played for the Harpies.

Girl Weasley and Potter dated.

Girl Weasley was giving him things.

Mug things.

That he kept.

Draco scraped his thumbnail over the gold lettering as hard as he could and was rewarded with a faint scratch in the paint. He smirked.

He found another mug to drink out of, taking the kettle off before it started making noise, and drank two cups of tea as he methodically scrapped the paint off the green mug. Dawn was peaking through the windows when he silently went back to the couch and laid down with his eyes closed, managing a hazy half-sleep until sounds from the bedroom pulled his eyes open.

He sat up to watch Potter stumble his way from his bedroom to the bathroom, hand down the front of his pants to scratch his crotch like a fucking neanderthal.

Draco rolled his eyes with a faint sneer and grabbed the remote, turning on the telly to the first trash talk show he could find. It kept his mind busy, so he almost didn't notice the restless prickle under his skin or how empty his hand was where a bottle seemed to be missing. The bathroom door opened followed by the bedroom again. Without much enthusiasm, Draco dragged himself to the bath to clean up.

When he came out, Potter was in the kitchen making tea and some sort of breakfast. He was holding the green mug in his hand with a faintly bewildered expression, “Why does my mug say Holy pies?”

Draco neatly sidestepped around Potter and the question, “A better question is what is a holy pie? I imagine the pope would be involved? Or could your average priest sufficiently bless a pie to make it holy?” He pulled a clean mug out of the cupboards for himself and grabbed a random tea to try.

Potter snorted, a small grin stealing onto his face as he set the cup down and turned back to the stove, “Where in the world did you learn about the pope?”

“Two years living with muggles, Potter,” Draco sighed. “Although the pope thing, in particular, came from a young priest that used to come round to this one block I rented at for three months, he was very keen on saving the lot of us. Cute, hopelessly naive, but he didn't mind answering all my rather stupid questions.”

Potter silently filled both their mugs.

Draco took his and sat on the counter and idly toyed with the teabag string, “I wonder sometimes if he ever managed it, saving someone.”

After a moments silence Potter asked, “Did you get much sleep last night?”

Draco gave him a flat look with an even flatter tone of voice, “Take a wild fucking guess.”

“You could have taken the bed,” Potter said, cracking a few eggs in beside the sizzling rashers of bacon, “Or we could have shared.”

Draco leaned back into the cupboards with a bemoaned, “I'd rather be left in a gutter to drown.”

Potter glanced over at him and seemed to be doing his best to hold his tongue which was a marvel all on its own. He looked back down at the frying pan, “How do you like your eggs?”

“Will there be toast?” Draco asked.

Potter nodded.

“Whites cooked, yolk runny, if you can manage,” Draco said. He tempted fate with a sip of tea. It was only just scalding.

Potter put the bacon on a plate, “I think I can manage.” He turned on his heel and nodded to a small blue toaster on opposite counter, “Start the toast?”

Draco groaned and banged about, shoving the bread in the toaster and finding the butter, “Why do you live here, Potter?”

“I like it,” Potter said, his shoulder rising just slightly in a shrug.

Draco sat on the counter next to the toaster, letting one hand hover over the top and enjoying the prickle of heat on his skin, “It's muggle.”

“Nothing wrong with that.”

Draco narrowed his eyes, “And small.”

Harry glanced over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised as if to say, So?

“The point being, Potter,” Draco said sourly, “that you need not do either. You're well liked and rather well off. You're living like a-” he looked around, tsking faintly in distaste, “-normal person.”

Potter laughed shortly, levering the eggs out of the frying pan with care. The yolks were a bright yellowy-orange on a field of white, perfect, like something out of a magazine advert. It was the absolute worst.

Draco jumped slightly as the toaster popped up. He grabbed the offending slices and smeared butter on them quickly, wincing at the heat, and shoved two more slices in the toaster.

“This may have escaped your notice, but I am a normal person,” Potter said.

Draco pointed at Potter with a piece of toast, “That, is a blatant lie. You're a creepy weirdo who quite clearly needs to have his head checked by a mind healer. The sooner you accept it the better.”

Potter laughed again, setting the two plates down beside Draco with their bacon and eggs. He was smiling hugely, so the corner so his eyes wrinkled, eyes shining with amusement. Draco was more than a little transfixed.

Potter bit off the end of the toast in Draco's hand, plucking him back to reality.

Draco looked at Potter in disgust, “Animal.” Potter laughed again as Draco dropped the mangled toast on the plate with one less slice of bacon, “That's your toast now.”

“Alright,” Potter said as he leaned close, kissing Draco's cheek leaving crumbs and butter in their wake.

Draco grimaced and pinched Potter viciously on the side. The startled swear it elicited was quite fantastic.

“If anyone's an animal here it's you,” Potter said with a glare, snatching up his plate and retreating to the table, “You're worse than a cat.”

Draco sneered at him, wiped his cheek off and buttering his toast. He stayed at the counter, balancing his plate on his lap as he carefully arranged the bacon and then the eggs on the slices of toast so they could be eaten like an open faced sandwich.

“Come sit at the table,” Potter sighed.

“Kiss my arse,” Draco replied without looking up from his plate.

“Only if you ask nicely.”

Draco looked up at Potter's smirk and smiled faintly, feeling pleased.

Potter's eyes widened, “What is- What are-” Potter gestured helplessly with his open hand in frustration, “-What the fuck are you?”

Draco shrugged, “I could very well ask you the same thing.”

Potter groaned, looking like he wanted smack his head on the table.

“Do us all a favor, Potter, tell me why you think you fancy me.” Draco said taking a bite of toast.

“What?” Potter's brow furrowed.

Draco raised an eyebrow, “A list? I like this bloke for reason's A, B, and or C? Only things that apply to right now, not the past.”

“Why?” Potter asked.

“I suppose, to see how completely delusional you really are,” Draco said.

Potter went quiet, his forehead crinkling as he frowned at his eggs.

Draco didn't sigh, at least not aloud. It would be a short list, if he managed to come up with anything at all. Draco's own list was shorter as well, now that it came down to it. They had both changed. This whole thing was a joke really, Potter just didn't see it yet.

Potter raised a finger, “You're fit...” he raised another finger, “and I admire what you went through during the war.” He went to raise a third finger and stopped with a frown.

He seemed to be struggling and Draco didn't want the dear boy straining himself so he cut in, “Ah yes the war. You are aware I crucioed a number of people?”

“You weren't in a position to refuse,” Potter replied instantly, which rather indicated to Draco that he had put far too much thought into the matter.

Draco sniffed and said flatly, “And that's an adequate reason now is it? Someone ought to tell the wizarding public, I wasn't in a position to refuse. That shall make it all better.”

“You didn't kill anyone,” Potter said stubbornly.

Draco snorted, “Oh, right. I only nearly killed three people. Lucky me, too much of a fuck-up and a coward to pull it off even once.”

Potter didn't reply, sullenly eating his breakfast like it had personally offended him. Draco took the opportunity to do the same. Potter was quite a good cook, as far as basic breakfast fare went, he even made the bacon just the way Draco liked it. He slid himself across the counter to the corner next to the sink and dropped the dishes in before leaning back into the cabinets.

Potter murdered his last egg with a stab and ate it in two bites, carrying his plate to the sink. He didn't look quite as angry as he had been, more like he had been thinking. Draco wasn't sure which was worse.

Potter tossed a dish towel at Draco's face as he grabbed a sponge, “You dry.”

Draco flicked the faded towel away from himself, “I don't suppose I can convince you to just stack everything up and put a drying charm on it in the bedroom.”

“Just dry the damn dishes, Malfoy,” Harry said with a shake of his head as he quickly scrubbed the first clean and rinsed it.

Draco dried and carefully stacked the dishes beside him to put away all at once and so he didn't have to get off the counter.

Potter set the frying pan in the sink and put a bit of water and soap in, turning off the water and leaning over the sink to let it soak for a bit. “Why...” he hesitated and then shot a look up at Draco, “Why do you, like me?”

Draco stiffened.

Potter stood and turned to lean back against the sink, bracing his hands on the counter, “It's not like you've a reason to, any more than me fancying you.”

“You really think I'm going to answer that?” Draco said, rolling his eyes and pulling feet up onto the counter, knees pressing to his chest.

Potter looked over at him, “Yeah, I do.”


Potter smiled and shrugged.

Draco glared at him, “That's enough reason for me not to answer just to spite you.”

Potter turned his head with a sigh that sounded just like fucking twat muttered under the breath. He turned back with a smile, Draco jumped when he felt Potter's fingers tracing up the ridges of his foot, “Come on, Draco.”

Draco wasn't sure if he like this soft manipulation better than the scary bullying kind. He felt a bit like Potter was trying to figure him out like a new muggle device, pressing buttons to see what would happen. He had tried just asking and relying on his Hero-Potterness carrying him through, next he had tried anger, cajoling, followed by bribery and now flirting. Draco rolled his eyes and sighed.

Potter leaned back looking resigned and annoyed.

Draco raised his eyebrows.

Potter's eyes narrowed in response, “What do you want then?”

“Hmmm...” Draco paused and looked up at the ceiling until he felt a sufficient amount of time had passed before saying, “A latte. Two shots with almond and white chocolate for the flavour.”

Potter stared at him flatly until Draco sneered at him and he acquiesced by stopping.

“Fine,” Potter said, crossing his arms over his chest, “but tell me first.”

“Without payment? I think not.” Draco said stubbornly.

Potter stepped closer, boxing him in the corner, “You know I'll do it and I know you're going to try and wiggle out of this if I give you so much as a bloody inch.”

Potter was right on that account. Draco had been planning to use Potter leaving to come up with a way out of the whole thing. What he didn't know what Draco had been stalling for time for this eventuality and had come upon quite a good plan, if he did say so himself.

“Very well,” Draco said smoothly and held up a finger, “One. You're fit and Two,” he slowly raised a second finger, a wicked smile growing at he watched Potter's expression, “I admire what you went through during the war.”

Potter closed his eyes and took a deep breath, “That's it?”

“Of course not,” Draco said flippantly, “but two for two. That's only fair.”

Harry breathed out in a huff, a lopsided smile growing as he opened his eyes, “So you think I'm fit?”

Draco raised an eyebrow, feeling mildly alarmed by this sudden tone shift.

“I mean, me fit?” Potter snorted, “Average at best and scruffy.”

“You've put on muscle,” Draco said, far more defensively than he meant to.

“A bit,” Potter conceded reluctantly, “If you like the wiry types.” He studied Draco and smiled faintly, “You like average, scruffy, wiry types?”

Draco frowned. Silence was an admission as much as any answer he might give. He fucking hated questions like that. “And you like pointy blokes that are too thin and looked like they've been soaked in bleach.”

Potter snorted, trying to pin down a smile, “I suppose so.”

“Well, now that we have that sorted,” Draco said, clearing his throat theatrically as he put a foot on Potter's chest and pushed him back. He slipped off the counter and stepping around Potter, feeling much better with his back to the open living room.

What's sorted?” Potter asked, picking up the clean dishes and quickly putting them away.

Draco rolled his eyes, “That were are not in-” he grimaced on the word, “-love with each other. That we are in fact in lust with one another.”

Potter turned back to the sink, going back to cleaning his frying pan, “Well...” he hummed thoughtfully, “that is generally how fancying someone starts out.”

Draco wanted to groan and bang his head against the wall. Potter really just did not get it. “If there's-” he threw his hands up, trying and failing to resist his frustration, “Lust is- There's is no reason for me to stay here! None!”

Potter calmly finished washing up and rinsed it, the silence growing and thickening until Draco was entirely certain he'd choke and die on it. He turned and sat the pan on the dish towel to let it air dry. He absently wiped his hand on his shirt before finally turning to Draco, taking a few steps closer so he was in arms reach before he spoke, “Do you want to leave?”

Draco wasn't sure what he had been expecting but that wasn't it. It made him feel a little lightheaded. He wrapped his arms around his waist, refusing to look at Potter.

“Do you?” Potter asked quietly, his hand moved forward as if he was going to touch Draco and then fell back to his side.

Draco stared at Potter's hand, both intensely glad he hadn't touched him and somehow disappointed. When he looked up Potter was looking at him with sad eyes -no- wary? or hopeful? Draco shook his head and tried to wet his suddenly desert dry mouth, “...Not necessarily.”

“Then stay,” Potter said.

“For how long?” Draco asked.

“As long as you want.”

Draco frowned, “How long?”

A brief echoing frown crossed Potter's face and then he sighed and pushed his hand through his hair, “A month then. And after a month we can talk about it again.”'

“But a month for certain?”

Potter nodded, “Yeah.”

“Okay,” Draco breathed out, feeling his shoulders loosen.

Potter smiled faintly, touching Draco's shoulder as he went past him, “Get dressed then.”

“For what?” Draco turned after Potter.

“I'm taking you out for coffee!” Potter called over his shoulder before closing the door to his room.

Draco blinked the confusion from his face, rubbing his shoulder absently. He smiled faintly and went to grab some clean clothes.

Chapter Text

“Ok. So yesterday was a bust,” Potter said flatly, fiddling with a pencil and a pad of paper.

Draco sat across from him at the table, “Coffee and a Time Team marathon seems rather like a win to me.”

Potter groaned and scrubbed his hair, “I can't believe we literally spent the entire day watching a show about muggle archaeology.”

“I can, because it's brilliant. Haven't you any appreciation for history?” Draco said.

“You're a wizard.”

Draco raised an eyebrow, “Yes? Had you perhaps forgotten?”

“You know what I mean you tit.” Potter said, tapping his pencil impatiently.

“I can see why you didn't pay attention in History since Binns is as engaging as a pile of moldy peels, and was rather obsessed with wars-” his brow furrowed, “Not the point. The statute of secrecy is relatively young in the scope of human history, prior to the seventeenth century muggle history is our history, you just have to know where to look.”

The tapping was getting louder.

Draco didn't care, “Magicians, wizards, priests, seers and fortune tellers, if they were any good they were likely one of ours. Our family histories are thoroughly woven in and out of muggle history. Mine for example. The Malfoy's owned a lot of land here and by owned I mean in the eleventh century they stole it. You can trace the evolution and perfection of the obliviate spell to them. Not terribly surprising really.”

Potter rolled his eyes, “So your family is entirely shit, good to know. Now can we-”

“Not entirely,” Draco interrupted, feeling mildly offended.

“There is you, I suppose,” Potter conceded.

Draco snorted, “I was speaking of Osanna Malfoy. She became a nun, until she was kicked out for being lesbian, moved to the continent and made jewelry for royalty.” He paused, flipping through his mental family tree, “Perhaps Laurens Malfoy, he only stabbed someone.”

“Only.” Potter said flatly.

“They didn't die.”

“If you're done distracting me?” Potter said.

Draco smirked, “Well, actually-”

“You're done,” Potter cut him off, “That nurse said the best thing for you would be to get back to a normal life. Since that's not going to happen-”

Draco snickered.

“-the next best thing would be a job.”

Draco stopped laughing.

“What do you want to do? Or what do you think you'd be good at?” Potter shifted in his chair, it squeaked. He had written job ideas at the top of the notepad in his tragic excuse for handwriting.

Draco sighed and looked up at the ceiling in silent supplication. No god smote him into ash so he was left to deal with Potter's once again astonishing level of stupidity, “Tell me you aren't serious.”

“No, I'm Harry,” he grinned to himself as he optimistically put a list of numbers down the side of the paper.

Draco stared at Potter. His brain had mostly shut down out of self-preservation but he was aware that what had happened was a pun of the absolute worst kind. Even more unfortunately, since he terribly clever, he understood Potter's pun, “Are you any good with obliviate spells, Potter? Because I would very much like to forget this conversation ever happened.”

Potter looked at him, his forehead crinkled, “It's just my godfather was-”

“Yes, my cousin Sirius Black,” Draco said impatiently, “I'm sure small children and dogs would have found your little joke hilarious,” He laid his forehead down on the table and lamented, “I want to wash my brain out with soap.”

Potter made a scoffing noise that likely accompanied an eye roll. Draco wished he had a pencil so he could throw it at Potter's stupid smug face.

“Are you even going to try and answer my question?” Potter asked. He was tapping his pencil again.

Draco turned his head so he could sort of see Potter, his cheek pressed against the warm unfinished wood, “I am not.”

Potter sighed, “Well, you were always top of class in potions...” his pencil scratched softly across the thin paper as he wrote, “and good at transfiguration and charms... probably not herbology, definitely not magical creatures.”

“I don't dislike all magical creatures,” Draco muttered, “just the ones that can kill me.”

“So... everything but pygmy puffs then?” Potter said fighting down a smirky grin.

“The cutest things are often the most deadly.”

“You could choke on one, I suppose,” Potter mused.

Draco smiled lopsidedly, “Suffocation by pygmy puff poffle pile.”

“I can't pun but you can alliterate?”

“Oo big words, don't strain yourself, Potter,” Draco said as he sat up, resting his chin on his hand.

Potter jabbed his pencil against the pad, “Go suck an egg,”

Draco raised an eyebrow, “Better suited to you, snake tongue.”

“I think you'll find ferrets a better fit,” Potter said with a smirk.

Draco realized they were just sitting there smiling at each other like berks and looked away, clearing his throat absently, “I was starting to think you'd lost your touch.” He hesitated then added, “You're in good form, this morning at least. Except the pun, that was wretched.”

“Yeah well, I don't exactly have anyone else to constantly insult and needle me,” Potter said.

“Shame,” Draco said.

Though he knew if there had been someone like that, well, he might have to put the family legacy to good use. He was the only one who was allowed to- to- The thought did not bear completion. It was truly an embarrassment of a thought. He was an embarrassment for having had it.

Draco groaned and scrubbed his face. What he wanted right now, really, really wanted, was to lay down, close his eyes and pretend he was asleep.

“Job ideas?” Potter prompted hopefully.

Draco dragged himself up from his self-pity to look Potter in the eye, “I have no NEWTS, Potter,” he said flatly, “I do not have the muggle equivalent of A levels. I am, on any paper imaginable, the worst job prospect in the world, full stop.” He sighed and frowned at himself, “I am not going to take a job as a dishwasher or cleaner simply because they are the only ones available to me.”

Potter grimaced as this news set in, “...fuck.”

“Indeed,” Draco said.

Potter pencil tapping took on a more thoughtful rhythm.

“Since that's settled,” Draco said quickly as he pushed away from the table, “why don't we just have lunch and forget all-.”

“You could still take your NEWTS,” Potter said, crossing out his earlier list and starting again, “You'd have to do independent study and then arrange to be tested?”

Draco slowly, noisily, pulled his chair back up to the table and then proceeded to slump over it like a small child being forced to consume brussel sprouts, “No one's going to hire me even with NEWTS,” he muttered, “It's pointless.”

“Not everyone's a prejudiced dickbag, you know.”

Draco slid his arms across the table in order to represent his unhappiness to its fullest effect, “Your unwarranted optimism makes me ill.”

There was a faint snap that made Draco look up. The tip of Potter's pencil had snapped as his jaw clenched and unclenched with anger. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Draco watched with interest. He could almost see Potter silently counting to ten to keep his temper.


They both turned to see an owl perched outside one of Potter's windows.

Potter was out of his seat and across the floor in seconds. He pulled open the window and took the small note the owl was holding, impatiently sending it off and snapping the window shut again. Potter read, frowned, went to his bedroom and emerged a few minutes later dressed in his scarlet auror robes.

Potter's anger seemed to have drained off as he stopped next to the table before presumably leaving, “Robbard's called me in.”

“On your day off?” Draco asked.

“On my week off,” Potter sighed, shaking his head slightly as he finished the buttons on his robes, “First holiday I've taken since I've started.”

Draco raised an eyebrow.

“They wouldn't call me in if it wasn't an emergency,” Potter said with all the conviction in the world.

Draco did his best to raise his eyebrow even higher.

Potter rolled his eyes, leaned down and kissed him, letting it linger into two, three, four kisses, before pulling away, “At least there's one thing sweet about you.”

“Prick,” Draco said mildly.

Potter grinned briefly and added, “I've adjusted the wards so you can come and go as you please. You can apparate from the bedroom, bath or right here, behind the couch, anywhere else will cause magic interference. There's a phone by the door,” he pointed, “you can use to order take away and I showed you some of the restaurants in the neighborhood.”

“Thanks, mum,” Draco said sarcastically.

Potter rolled his eyes again and sighed, “Also- Look, if you don't like the NEWT idea think of something else. If you don't, it's the NEWTS. You're not going to lay about watching tv every day.”

Draco frowned.

“You're not.” Potter said firmly. He gave Draco one more chastising look before pulling out his wand, and apparating away.

Draco stared at the blank spot where Potter had been for a long time after he'd gone. The pressing silence of the flat finally forced him to do something. So he stood and looked around with a growing sense of being utterly lost making itself at home in his chest. Because this wasn't his place, wasn't his place in the world. Then again he didn't have one of those anymore.

And it was the end of the month, so he changed into one of his ill-fitting suits and apparated to Diagon Alley. He normally only came when it was very early or very late, there were a lot more people around than he was used to. Draco wished he could cast a notice-me-not spell or an illusion spell but most of those spells were neutralized around the shops to prevent theft. So he walked quickly and avoided eye contact. His damned hair stood out like a beacon but his muggle clothes usually threw off anyone who recognized him.


A hand grabbed his forearm, followed by a quiet but urgent voice, “Draco Malfoy?”

Before he could deny his existence, the owner of the hand pulled him urgently to the side of the road and into the shadowed gap between Gringotts and the shop beside.

It was an older woman, her robes were the height of fashion, about five years ago, her hair was pulled up into a tidy bun that was grey streaked with brown. Both her face and body had a boxiness to them that seemed terribly familiar.

“It's been so long,” she looked him over with concern, “Are you doing well? What am I saying, look at you, of course, you're not doing well.” She ran her hands down his arms in a very mum fashion.

Draco stared at her, finally managing a faint nod of acknowledgment.

“I know your family lost everything in the reparations.” She tried to smile, “I'm afraid it happened to most of us... with family in-” her mouth trembled and she pressed it together. She patted his arms again, “You've been away?”

“Living in muggle London,” he said.

“Oh dear, that would explain it,” she looked him over and hesitated, seeming to be appraising him. “There are more people like us. We get together, to talk.” She opened her bag and took out a small square of parchment, writing up against the wall with a self inking quill.

Draco took the parchment when it was offered to him.

“I think you may be a good fit.” She squeezed her hands around his outstretched hand, “I must get back to work. Take care, Draco dear.”

“Good-bye,” he replied.

She slipped through the crowds with her head down and Draco walked into the Gringott's. Someone hurried past him, shoving his shoulder and Draco startled. A shiver raced down his spine. He shook his head roughly and moved away from the door. He found a bench near the wall and sank down on it.

The woman was Marion Crabbe, Vincent's mother. His fingers tightened around the parchment in his hand, the rough thick paper pressing into his palm. Draco's head still felt- He shook it again and tried to focus on his his surroundings.

As soon as he had realized who she was, he must have known as soon as he saw her, he had started occluding on reflex. Even now, even after so long. Draco reached down and pinched his arm as hard as he could stand, his brows drawn together. He hated how he felt when he occluded, hated the way he couldn't feel.

Even now, he couldn't stop himself from doing it.

He looked down at his hand, ignoring the faint shaking to look at what the woman had given him. It was a date, saturday, at seven and an address he didn't recognize and nothing more. People like us she had said, a group of people who used to be rich and powerful getting together to whine about their shitty life choices, it sounded like the height of stupidity.

He crumpled the note in his hand and shoved it unceremoniously into his pocket as he stood. The goblin at the counter was already frowning as Draco approached.

“Key,” they ordered.

Draco sneered at them as he careful unclasped the chain around his neck and let it and the small key on it rest on the counter. The goblin snatched it up, looking it over with a bored expression before turning their glare back on Draco. They didn't break their gaze as they bellowed, “Blastlan!”

An old goblin made his way over.

The counter goblin handed over Draco's key, telling Blastlan, “Keep watch on this one, no longer than twenty minutes.”

Blastlan looked Draco over, looking thoroughly unimpressed, “Doesn't look much trouble to me,” he said in a low gravely voice.

“He's a lingerer,” the counter goblin said with a tone that suggested it was an irreverent blasphemous act. Then again it might have been.

It was a short journey down to his small vault. Draco stood back as Blastlan opened it. Inside, one side of the room had a row of chests, six of them now. The other side of the room had lines of perfectly stacked coins, each stack an identical, immaculate three by three square. There had been one hundred and forty-four piles of coins, now there were one hundred and sixteen. Draco carefully filled his coin purse with one month's allowance and turned to the line of chests.

There had been ten in the beginning. The ministry had given them three days to leave the manor. Though the fuckers had taken all liquid assets and properties, they didn't have an inventory of what was in the manor. It had been a loophole. So he, his mother and their last three house elves spent every minute of those three days, packing up what they could and hiding it away here. All the chests were bigger on the inside, many had multiple levels and were heirlooms in their own right. Three chests of valuables haggled and sold had been enough to buy his mother a cottage and provide her a generous monthly income for the rest of her life, along with a few other necessities.

Draco went to his personal chest, dark wood banded by black iron. It had three levels, one for all his clothing- it had seemed important at the time- one for his other belongings and the third for all his potion supplies. He tapped the lid of the chest with his wand in the proper pattern and it opened with a faint groan.

“No loitering,” Blastlan growled.

Draco just needed a few more changes of clothing but... He ran his fingers over the edge of the chest, heavy with layers of ancient lacquer and protective charms. Feeling foolish and a bit hopeful, which only made him feel more foolish, he closed the lid, put a levitation charm on the trunk and floated it out of the vault with him.

Blastlan muttered and swore all way back up about transporting the chest inside the small cart. He got his key back once they were back in the bank and Draco anxiously refastened the chain around his neck, double and triple checking to make sure it was secure. He normally exchanged all his galleons for muggle notes but this time he only had half of them changed out.

Back at Potter's flat, he wasn't quite sure why he'd brought the chest, there wasn't exactly a place for it. It wouldn't be too in the way at the end of the couch and he knew, much to his eternal dismay, that Potter would have let him and his things clutter up his bedroom but he didn't like either option much. Draco walked the edge of the small apartment again, kitchen, living room, bedroom and then the bathroom. A wall had been put up to allow for more cupboards and counter space, so the bathroom was down a small half-hallway.

At the end of the hall was a little table that seemed out of place, if for no other reason than it was decorative and Potter appeared to be sadly utilitarian. The little table was piled with heavy books, an empty vase balanced on top. Draco glanced over the books, all old textbooks from school, when a crack caught his eye.

Not a crack, he ran his fingers over it, a line, from a door.

He carefully moved the table out of the way and found that it had been hiding most of a small door painted the same colour as the wall. Draco pulled it open and was rather disappointed to find it was just a closet. It was rather deep and strangely shaped, at an angle. It took Draco a moment to realize it must run under the stairs outside the apartment. There was nothing in the closet but dust and a somewhat battered cardboard box.

This could be his space.

He ducked inside and grabbed the box, dragging it out into the hallway and then tried his hand at an undetectable extension charm. It took four tries before he got the spell to stabilize and then he waited another ten minutes to make sure it would hold before he dared to enter the new room. And it was a room now, small but tall enough to stand up in, at the door end. It would make quite a decent potions lab.

Draco blinked at the thought.

It was mental.

Then again. He didn't want to work and he didn't want to take his NEWTS and he did quite like potions. He even had all his potions equipment with him. It was all so neat and clever he might have even thought he'd planned it this way. Perhaps he had, subconsciously, of course.

He quickly cleaned the room, his mind buzzing with ideas. Hunting around the neighborhood netted him a pallet and some other scrap wood which he shrunk down and brought back with him. Transfiguration turned the wood into a work table and a few shelves which he stuck in place with sticking charms. He conjured blue white fairy lights in a string round the top of the walls, preferring the gentle white-blue glow they gave off. A simple air transfer spell would make sure brewing fumes would be shunted outside and fresh air brought in. The last thing he did before moving his things into the room was to enlarge the door, it simply wouldn't do to have to duck to get inside every single time.

He lost track of time, only coming out of his room when his stomach aching from hunger from a skipped lunch. The windows showed only darkness outside when he used the phone to order some Thai food.

Potter was still gone. It was well past any normal working hours. Not that there was anything he could do about it. He wondered how the people Potter had dated before could have stood it, the not knowing, the powerlessness.

It didn't matter. It wasn't Draco's problem. He resolved to go buy a radio and a wizarding wireless for his room. This flat had too much silence.

Draco was heading to bed when the crack of apparition announced Potter's return. He nearly walked into Draco coming out of the bathroom. Potter's face was shadowed and his expression seemed distant. There was a dark stain across the front of Potter's robes, like a splash of ink. Draco couldn't stop himself from staring at it.

Potter glanced down at himself, “It's not mine,” he said as if it were supposed to be reassuring that he was splattered with someone else's blood.

When Draco didn't respond, mostly on account of being frozen to the spot, Potter silently stepped around him and went into the bathroom. He heard the water start. Draco wondered what exactly he was supposed to do in this situation. He had settled on simply telling Potter that there were leftovers in the fridge but since Potter went straight from the bath to his bedroom without another spoken word it was rather a wasted effort.

Draco laid back on the couch and stared at the dark ceiling. Of course he knew Potter was barmy... he knew but, it was quite another thing altogether to see it. At least Draco had only fallen into drink. Whereas Potter had apparently decided to fall back into the war.

Chapter Text

“Morning, what- What are you doing?” Potter stopped in the middle of the kitchen, his hand scrubbing through his wild hair.

“Breakfast,” Draco said.

Potter picked the box up off the counter, “Toaster waffles? What are you doing to them?” he squinted at the waffle balanced on Draco's hand, “Is that peanut butter?”

“And nutella,” Draco said taking a bite of the sugary monstrosity.

“I have syrup you know.”

“I do know,” Draco said with a sniff, “and I didn't want syrup. I wanted peanut butter and-”

“-nutella.” Potter grimaced.

Draco sighed, dropping the half eaten waffle on the plate next to him on the counter. He plucked the other still warm waffle from the toaster and smeared nutella over it and held it out to Potter, “You could use more chocolate in your life.”

Potter took the waffle reluctantly, “Next you'll have me sitting on the counter top.”

“It's very satisfying.” Draco said retrieving his chocolate and peanut butter waffle, “Really, Potter, the only good thing about being an adult is that no one can tell you not to eat garbage and sit on counter tops.”

Potter snorted and after a moment slid Draco's collection of jars out of the way and sat on the counter next to him.

Draco put two more waffles in the toaster.

“It's pretty good, actually,” Potter concede.

“Of course it is,” Draco said and decided he might as well get to the arse of the matter, “Why the fuck are you an auror, Potter?”

Potter half choked on a bite of waffle.

Draco handed him his mug of tea which he drank down gratefully between unpleasant hacking coughs. With a sigh, Draco slid off the counter and put the kettle on.

“What do you mean?” Potter wheezed.

Draco took out a fresh mug and set it on the counter with a clink before turning to face Potter, and said as plainly and flatly as he could manage, “Why are you doing it? It's wretched.”

Potter bought himself some time by taking a bite.

Draco leaned back against the counter and crossed his arms over his chest.

“To... catch dark wizards, to help people.” Potter said.

Draco raised an eyebrow, “That's a job description, not an explanation.”

“I've wanted to be an auror since school.”

Draco was starting to think there were ferns that were more self-aware than Potter. “Yes, well, we were all stupid then. How about now.”

Potter shoulders stiffened defensively, “It's- Is this about last night? Because it's rarely like that-”

“Do. You. Like. Your. Job. Yes or no. I'm certain you can manage that much,” Draco said quietly, which much to his surprise seemed to make Potter more agitated than if he had shouted.

“I- It helps people,” Potter said, his voice rising slightly, “I want to help people.”

“There are less awful ways of managing that,” Draco said filling his new clean mug with boiling water and dropping in a teabag.

Potter's mouth thinned into a faint scowl.

A moment of silence stretched out between them, broken by the toaster popping up.

“Have you decided what you're going to do?” Potter asked.

Ah, deflection. Though Potter was about as subtle as an erumpent in heat. Par for the course really. “Potions.” He said, his hand hovering over the myriad of different spreads on the counter. He plucked out the raspberry jam and cream cheese.

“You're going to take your NEWTS?”

“What? No.” Draco scoffed, pushing a warm waffle at Potter and finishing up one for himself.

“Oh. This is really good.” Potter mumbled around a mouthful.

“I've already told you NEWTS won't help,” Draco said impatiently.

Potter's brow furrowed, “Then potions? Just brewing potions?”

“For fuck's sake,” Draco rolled his eyes, “Some people take time to think about things rather than making life altering decisions over the course of an afternoon.”

“I didn't decide over the course of an afternoon!” Potter bristled.

Draco raised an eyebrow and said coolly, “I am entirely certain I don't know to what you are referring.”

Potter glared at him.

Draco preferred haughty disdain as he ate his waffle. He put everything away as soon as he was done. If Potter wanted more he could make his own damn waffles.

“Where are you going to do it?” Potter asked, “I hate the smell of brewing, you're not doing it here.”

Draco felt a prickle of anxiety go down his spine. He took a deep breath and shook it off.

“I'll put up a ward to block any smell. I've already put an air transference spell in place, that should catch most of it.” Draco said walking back to the hallway.

“Already?” Potter said, “What do you mean, Already?!” Draco could hear him following close behind.

Draco opened the closet door at the end of the hall, pushing it wide so Potter could see inside.

Potter stopped abruptly, his hand reaching out unconsciously to grip the bathroom door frame. He looked intensely uncomfortable.

“You weren't using it,” Draco said.

Potter's brow twitched, “It's...”

“I'm not asking you to go in or even look at it. I remember what you said during your little tantrum the first night I was here.” Draco said, although that wasn't strictly true since he had only just remembered that Potter had been locked in a closet under the stairs by his family. It was no wonder he wasn't using it.

Of course, that had no bearing on Draco using it. He wasn't traumatized by storage space.

“I don't think...” Potter trailed off, shaking his head.

Draco's brow drew together, “Don't think what, Potter?”

“I just-” the door frame creaked faintly as he leaned against it, “I think the NEWTS are a better idea.”

Draco blinked.

“You get your NEWTS and I'm sure you'll find a job-”

“I said NO,” Draco hissed furiously.

Potter went on with a hint of desperation, taking a half step closer to him, “Draco-”

Don't call me that!” Draco snapped.

Potter was tensing up again as he let go of the wall, moving to fill the center of the hallway, “What?! It's your name! I don't understand why you get so shirty about me using it!”

Draco edged back slightly, one hand reaching out to grab the closet door, “You're a manipulative fuck, Potter, and you can take your NEWTS and shove them right up your arse!” He flipped Potter off with one hand and pulled the door shut as he stepped into his room.

Draco fired a locking spell at the door. He didn't jump when Potter hit the door, he had been expecting it. Probably used his fist, the absolute moron.

Draco held his breath until he heard Potter stomp off then sat on the floor, back pressed against the door. His hands were shaking. He held them out to watch his fingers shiver. He wondered what Potter would think if he knew he was one of the few people that Draco had ever raised his voice to, ever lost his temper. Stupid fucking Potter.

The anger that had been thrumming through him began to fade, replaced by a leaden weight. He had been full of ideas yesterday, things he wanted to do, potions he wanted to brew just to see if he still could. The excitement was gone. He felt tired. He always felt tired. But he couldn't sleep, not well, not long.

He let his eyes slide along the shelves he had put up and held out his wand with a silent accio, catching a Rothburt's Potioneering as he sailed to him. He didn't want to read it. He didn't want to do anything but he knew how to force himself. He had spent all of sixth year pushing himself through just wanting to sleep, just wanting to give up.

He flipped through the pages, reading some, skimming others and drifting in and out of a hazy half-sleep that felt less like a nap and more like being dragged underwater by his ankles.

He woke from one such half sleep when Potter knocked on the door, his voice muffled, “The support meeting at Mungo's is in twenty minutes.”

Draco groaned and rubbed his eyes, his head was pounding and despite knowing it was from sleeping too much he wanted to curl up on the floor and sleep even more.

Potter knocked again, more hesitantly, “You should go...It's important.”

Draco pushed himself to his feet, leaning against the door briefly. He didn't want to go but getting away from Potter for a few hours sounded like an absolute blessing. “Fine,” he called through the door, “I'm going.”

“I'll come with you.”

A frustrated feral sounding growl came out of his mouth, “You won't. If you try I'll hex your bollocks so far up your arse you'll have a second pair of tonsils.” He grabbed his wand and apparated with a crack. He waited by the Mungo's apparition point for nearly a minute, almost certain Potter would show up, but he didn't. So he put his wand away and resigned himself to his new traitorous fate.

Mungo's was quiet, nearly empty. Somehow it had gotten late. He had missed lunch again but that was fine since he didn't have much of an appetite.

He would start fresh, like the day had never happened, and not at all think about Potter being a prick. Easy enough, he was, after all, very good at compartmentalizing. He shook the tension out of his shoulders, took a deep breath, and headed back to the mind healers ward.

The way back was creepier that usual. Everything was the same but the absolute emptiness of the hallways made every shadow seem deeper, every unknown sound a little louder. Draco rather wished that Mugo's had muggle lights, a single flickering tube overhead would have really perfected the mood. The reception area was empty but someone had stuck up a sign with an arrow pointing to the back for the 'weekly meeting'. As he pushed open the double doors he found himself face to face with the nice medinurse he had provoked the last time he was here.

She lit up when she saw him, “You came! I was starting to think you wouldn't,” she was worrying her hands together in front of herself, “A lot of patients don't come back but it really is helpful. Muggles have meetings like this and their data shows it's very helpful... with recovery and... support.”

Draco felt like a wrung out flannel but he couldn't help quirking a small smile at her nervous fussing, “What is it?”

“oh, well,” she said quietly, “I wanted to apologize to you. You were right-”

Draco eyebrows rose, “I was what?”

“You were right, about Harry Potter, I gave him preferential treatment even though he was causing a disturbance. I shouldn't have yelled at you and I should have yelled at him,” She looked about a second away from from a curtsy though she never did, “I really am sorry.”

Draco absently brushed his hand through his hair, “What's your name?”

“Iris,” she looked down at her healer's robes, touching the name embroidered there as if to make sure it hadn't disappeared.

He nodded as he studied her with a little more care. She was short and plump, and looked to be south asian with brown skin and black hair and a gentle, hopeful expression, “Apology accepted, Iris. Although you didn't need to give one, I was a complete arsehole. I was trying to make you angry.”

Iris drew herself up to all of her five feet, “That doesn't mean I should have. I want to be understanding of all our patients.”

Draco snorted, smiling tiredly, “I think that's quite impossible. Some of us are terribly batty.”

“I can try,” Iris said with a frankly baffling amount of enthusiasm. “The meeting is this way. Not many come to the tuesday group,” she stepped away and waved for him to follow her down to one of the counseling rooms where a ring of chairs had been set up. There was a large stack of chairs in the corner of the room, only seven had been set out for the meeting and of the seven only three were being used.

There was a tall, elegant black woman with long braids and a distant expression, a squat young man with tan lines that spoke of regular quidditch practice, and a thin sick looking young man of middle eastern decent who crossed his ankles under his chair and cross his arms over his chest like he was trying to sink into himself.

Everyone looked over as they came in. Quidditch scowled at him but Braids smiled.

“Draco Malfoy,” she said warmly.

“Please to make your re-acquaintance, Miss Jasmine,” Draco said grandly with a sweeping half bow before taking the chair beside her.

They had been through detox at the same time in adjacent beds. She had always laughed when the Head-Mediwitch lost her temper because of him. He grinned as he looked around, “Since we've got Iris and Jasmine that must mean...” he pointed at Quidditch, “you're Buttercup and-” he pointed to the other bloke, “you're Rose.”

Jasmine laughed, a deep throaty laugh, “What does that make you?”

“Well, I obviously can't name myself,” Draco said, mock scandalized, “That is not how this sort of thing works.”

Jasmine laughed again then tapped her finger on her lips thoughtfully, “I think... Daisy?”

“Marvelous,” Draco said flatly, “You have a gift.”

“My name isn't Buttercup,” Quidditch growled.

“I like Rose,” Rose said hesitantly.

“My name isn't Buttercup,” Quidditch repeated, sitting forward, his fists resting on his knees.

Draco was studying Rose with a bit more interest but still managed to roll his eyes, “Then what is it?” he asked Quidditch, while thinking that perhaps he wasn't entirely correct for Rose.

“My name's Jerald,” Jerald said darkly, squinting at Draco like he was daring him to do something.

“I see,” Draco said, “and you're a beater for one of the smaller quidditch teams, here after being caught doping?”

Jerald bristled like a feral cat, “How do you know that?”

“By looking at you,” Draco sighed, “Tan lines, body type, anger issues. It's not difficult. You're a walking stereotype.”

Jerald's fists tightened, his knuckles standing out in stark relief, pink surrounded by white.

“I think that's everyone, shall we get rid of these extra chairs?” Iris said, sending the spares floating over to the corner where they stacked themselves neatly.

Rose glanced at the empty seat next to Draco and nervously shifted over so they wouldn't be stuck next to Jerald.

Iris sat between Rose and Jerald, folding her hands in her lap where they fidgeted nervously with the heavy robe fabric.

“Where's Healer Powell?” Jasmine asked, “He usually runs all of the groups.”

“Usually,” Jerald muttered under his breath, shooting a glare at Draco.

Draco quirked an eyebrow, watching how Iris had jumped slightly at the question, her hands tightening in her robe.

“Something came up for the Healer. I've attended all the groups as well, for years. I'm certain I can manage,” she put on a bright artificial smile.

“You'll do great,” Rose said with a faint smile.

Iris brightened slightly and clapped her hands together, “Now, we have some new faces so I'll go over the rules, or guidelines, well there's only the one but it's very important.

“So. All our experiences are different, all the reasons that have brought us here today are different. No one here is less worthy of this group than anyone else or less deserving. We're here to help and support one another. So it's important we express a mutual respect for one another, okay?” She looked around the circle, prompting a nod of acknowledgment from everyone, even Jerald although his nod came reluctantly. “Does anyone want to start with something specific?” Iris paused to see if an answer was forthcoming and then went on cheerfully, “Well, why don't we just take turns getting to know each other and maybe share a little about what brought you here, only as much as you're comfortable.”

Jasmine flicked up her hand, “This is my second time through detox. I don't usually go to these meetings much but Iris has convinced me it will help keep me from relapsing again,” she leaned back into her chair, hooking one arm over the back, “I'm a dreamless sleep addict,” she smiled sourly, “It wasn't doing it for me so I started mixing it with sweet dreams as well.”

Draco's eyebrows rose. That was a dangerous combination, she was lucky she hadn't dropped herself into a coma she'd never wake up from.

Jasmine sighed, her eyes going distant, “I started out sleeping for ten or twelve hours then more, I'd measure it out to sleep through my days off, wake up sore and shaky but still wanting more. Took too much and slept four days straight through. Nearly lost my job, boyfriend told me to get clean or he'd leave, so here I am,” she spread her hands.

“How have you been since you finished detox?” Iris asked gently.

“Can't sleep. Feel like shit,” Jasmine shrugged. She leaned over slightly and nudged Draco's arm, “I know some amazing glamour charms if you're interested.”

“Thank you but no,” Draco said, “If I'm going to feel like garbage I want everyone who looks me to know it. I like to share my misery.”

Jerald snorted.

Rose fought down a smile.

“So generous,” Jasmine smiled.

“Right,” Jerald said brusquely, leaning forward and bracing his hands on his knees, “I'm a reserve beater, you don't need to know the team. I've been trying to get off the bench since I started two years ago. A teammate recommended Slice to me, it was just for practice, to get the coach to notice me and it's not like it does much, just enhances your reflexes a bit,” his lip and nose scrunched in a curl of disgust, “Someone ratted me out. Now I'm off the team for the year, have to spend six months here, random testing for the rest of my career...” he trailed off with a glower, dropping back in his seat.

Iris leaned forward a bit, gripping her robe nervously, “Jerald. It seems like you're blaming whoever reported you, but you made the choice to take Slice. No one else. You're responsible for your choices and responsible for how you respond to what happens to-”

“So it's my fault then!?” Jerald yelled, lurching forward.

Iris jolted back into her seat and there was a moment of sharp, silent tension in the room.

Draco sniffed and raised an eyebrow, “Oh, did someone force you? Shove it down your throat? Secretly mix it into your food?”

“I was ratted out!” Jerald yelled

Draco said, “You knew the risk. You knew when you started taking it that this might happen. You did it anyway.”

Jerald was going red in the face, leaning so far forward in his chair he was nearly rocking off it, “I never would have used it in a game! I would've played clean!”

Draco languidly threaded his fingers together on his lap, feeling pleased for the first time since peanut butter and chocolate waffles, “You say that but could you really? After impressing the coach on enhancing substances, you think you would have risked disappointing them in a real game?”

“I wouldn't have disappointed her! I would've played better than any of them!” Jerald was on his feet now, the chair rocking behind him, half a foot forward and a hairsbreadth from snatching Draco up by the collar of his shirt.

Draco just barely kept the smirk of glee off his face, it would have ruined the game, and said as coolly and calmly as an iceberg, “If you could play better than any of them, why did you need the Slice in the first place?”

Jerald was clenching and unclenching his hands into fists, so furious he had become the living embodiment of a bomb ready to explode. Behind them, the stack of chair rattled as a wave of wild magic washed over them. Iris had her wand drawn. But Draco could see his words sinking into the backwater of Jerald's mind.

He was right of course and Jerald would hate him for it. It would go one of two ways, Jerald would accept that doping was his choice and his fault or he'd hold onto his convictions even tighter and add an intense loathing for Draco Malfoy in along with them.

Jerald ended up stomping out the room, slamming the door shut behind him with so much force it bounced right out of the door frame and hit the wall.

Everyone seemed to hold their breath until they couldn't hear the sound of his footsteps.

“Never a dull moment with you around is it?” Jasmine said.

Rose let out a long shuddery breath and a noise somewhere between relief and laughter.

“I should go after him,” Iris said, rising slowly to her feet looking determined.

“No!” Rose blurted.

“I don't think that's a good idea,” Jasmine agreed.

“At least not alone,” Draco said rising to his feet and brushing his trousers off in an absentminded sort of way.

Iris said quickly, “You don't have to come, I'm the group leader, it's my responsibility-”

“I am the one that pissed him off,” Draco said with an easy smile, “if he ends up hexing someone it ought to be me.”

“You were enjoying it,” Jasmine said.

Draco shrugged.

“I would like to come too,” Rose said

Jasmine stood as well, slowly stretching her arms over her head with a yawn, “I could use a walk, or I'm going to doze off at this rate.”

They all went out, checking down hallways and asking the few healers still on duty until they reached the entry where the welcome witch told them a man that looked like Jerald had flooed out a few minutes past and they all walked back to the counseling room.

“Do you even want to continue?” Iris asked before they even sat down, glancing at Rose, “It would be understandable if you don't.”

“I'm fine,” Rose said softly, picking up on Iris' concern and becoming a thousand times more nervous and self-conscious because of it.

Jasmine dropped back in her seat and leaned back with a roll of her shoulders, “I'm not going anywhere until I've heard Daisy's story,” she jerked a thumb at Draco with a cheeky smile.

They moved chairs around, shrinking the little circle to better accommodate the four of them.

Everyone was looking at him. It was only three people. It was just a couple of fuck ups just like him and one nurse too kind for her own good. He took a deep breath and smirked half-heartedly, “Alcoholic.”

Jasmine's eyebrows rose, “I would have thought you'd have some sort of fancy potion addiction.”

“Jasmine,” Iris scolded gently.

“Just drinking,” He said, raising one shoulder in a shrug. “It started as a way to get to sleep. Then I found if I drank enough I didn't dream or at least I couldn't remember them...” he crossed his arms over his chest, staring blankly at his knees, his mind flooded with memories of long dark hallways, guttering torches, the home he had grown up in filled with shadows and memories he couldn't escape from.

“You don't have to say anything more,” Iris said, “It's only your first meeting. You don't need to push yourself.”

“Thank you,” Draco said with a slight bow of his head.

“Did you want to talk, Emad?” Iris asked

“...Rose, if that's ok,” Rose said.

Iris nodded, “Rose, then.”

Rose stared down at their hands and picked at their cuticles. They finally answered with a slight shake of their head.

“That's fine,” Iris said, “I want to talk a little bit more about taking back control of your life, if that's okay?”

They all nodded and the next hour was taken up with talking about feeling powerless and responsibility. Draco didn't talk much he wasn't sure he wanted to listen but he tried.

The meeting wrapped up around nine.

Rose paused before leaving and told Draco very quietly, “Thank you for the nickname. I've never had one I liked before.” and left before he could respond.

“Are you going to come to the next meeting, Jasmine?” Iris asked.

Jasmined smiled tiredly. “Yeah. They're more interesting than I thought,” she said looking over at Draco, “See you around, Daisy.”

“Have a fair and pleasant evening,” Draco said, inclining his head.

Jasmine laughed as she headed for the door, only to stop at the doorframe and turn around, “Merlin! I should have called you Snapdragon!”

Draco laughed, “Too late now!”

Jasmine slapped the door, “Damn! and it was right there too,” she left with a tsk, shaking her head.

“Mr. Malfoy?” Iris called, her voice sounding tentative. She was standing behind one of the chairs, bracing her hands on the metal back, “Can I talk to you?”

Draco raised his eyebrow, “Generally.”

Iris smiled hesitantly before sinking back into nervousness, “It's about your group attendance, well, what days you plan to attend.”

Draco didn't let his expression change. He has known this would happen. “This is about Healer what's-his-name who normally runs group isn't it?” Draco said, “It's my fault he's not here.”

Iris' face was slowly flushing with misery, “Healer Powell expressed a- a discomfort with leading a group you would be attending. He didn't believe he couldn't remain neutral and removed himself. But-!” she looked up defiantly, “that's not your fault! It's his choice! And his responsibility. You're not responsible for how other people think, or feel!”

“Just myself,” Draco said.

“Right,” Iris smiled, “I was thinking, this group went very well.”

Draco snorted, “Really?”

Iris nodded, “Well, yes. So I thought, you should keep coming to tuesday meetings, with me and the group, and on thursday maybe we could meet, just the two of us? Thursday meetings aren't so big that Healer Powell can't run it alone. We could use one of the smaller counseling rooms. I think that would be a good compromise?”

Draco stared at her, for perhaps too long as she began to fidget uncomfortably. “You're entirely serious aren't you?”

“Yes? Why wouldn't I be?” Iris asked, her brow furrowing in confusion.

Draco found himself smiling slightly in disbelief, “I spent my week in detox harassing the staff, provoked you into losing your temper and then provoked Buttercup into nearly assaulting me.”

“Yes, but, the thing is,” Iris said carefully, “I don't think you're a bad person.”

“Merlin's tits, you are serious,” Draco said. “This is atrocious.”

“It is?” Iris said trying not to look hurt.

Draco sighed, “It's wretched but I've decided that I have to like you now.”

Iris' eyes went wide, “What? You do? Why?”

“Because you are kind, persistently so,” Draco curled his lip faintly in distaste, “The amount of effort you waste does not bear thinking on.”

“Thank you? I think?” Iris smiled, “Will you come on thursday?”

He nodded, “Very well.”

Chapter Text

Draco stared apparition zone in the corner of the Mungo's entrance hall, a ring of red paint, helpfully labeled 'apparition zone' for those who might have been unconvinced by the three other signs indicating it was the apparition zone.

He was... uncertain. Yes. That was the word. Not afraid or nervous or any of that bollocks, just uncertain.

He couldn't help but worry he was the one in the wrong after all, that he didn't deserve this tentative beginning, that Potter would push him out the door and tell him to never come back. He had that thought a lot. He was fairly certain the thought was lying to him but knowing this did not seem to make it shut up.

Draco tried to clear his head but giving it a brief shake.

He was just uncertain and that was all.

Draco apparated into Potter's living room, startling the daft bugger up from the table where he had been sitting, the chair going over backward with a clatter onto the tiles.

He and Potter stared at each other for a bit.

Potter broke the silence, “I was hoping we could talk about what happened earlier.” He quickly picked the chair up and gestured to the kitchen, “I made tea?”

Draco followed him and there were two mugs under stasis in the kitchen. He took one and sat on the counter.

Potter did the same, cradling his tea up by his chin, “You're quiet.”

“I'm fucking tired,” Draco said stiffly.

“Oh. ” Potter said. “...We could talk in the morning?”

“no.” Draco glared at the refrigerator across from him, tapping one fingernail against the side of his mug, “Just stop trying to manipulate me. I hate being manipulated.”

“I wasn't trying to-”

“You were.” Draco said bitterly, “You only call me Draco when you're trying to manipulate me,” his frown deepened, “or you're being condescending.”

Potter stared down into his mug, his brow furrowed, “Then... when you went into detox, did you think I was manipulating you?”

“I didn't have to think it. You were acting like you were going to fuck me into the door if I agreed, knowing-” his throat tightened and his clenched his teeth, “-knowing how I felt.”

Potter opened his mouth and then changed his mind, looking conflicted, “Why did you do it then?” he finally asked.

Draco didn't want to answer that. He felt his cheeks get hot and turned his head away towards the living room. “There was something in it for me,” he muttered.

Potter seemed to have heard him because he didn't ask Draco to repeat himself, which was good because he would have died if he had to.

Draco carefully inched back on the counter until his back was pressed the cabinets, “Why are you so obsessed with me getting a job? Do me a favour and think before you speak.”

Draco stared at his tea, slowly growing cold in his hands.

Potter finally said, “I think... I think it's that, you just staying here and doing potions or whatever is... isolating.” He sat his mug down and slid it away towards the sink, bracing his hands on the edge of the counter, “If you had a job you'd meet people and talk to them...”

“I'm perfectly capable of meeting people without a job,” Draco said acidly, “I met people today.”

“But they're-” Potter stopped himself abruptly, looking as if he would do anything to take those words back.

Draco's expression darkened, “Addicts? Fuck-ups? Are they not good enough for you, Mr. Hero?”

“You've just got clean what if they're- if they influence- if they're ba-” he broke off, aware he was digging himself into a hole there was no escape from

Draco's grip on his mug tightened until his fingers went white, “They're going to the meeting because they want to get better. Isn't that the point, Potter?”

Potter swallowed hard.

“How am I any different? Or do I not count since you're going to fix me?” Draco sneered. “Sending me off to work some nice little job where I can make good correct friends, where people will learn to like me over time because of my inner goodness and hard work, and then the whole wizarding world shall hoist me upon their shoulders and declare, at last, I am worthy of their Harry Potter.”

Draco hazarded a glance over at Potter and couldn't read his expression because he appeared to be frozen.

Draco went on more quietly, “It wouldn't work. For every person I managed to convince I wasn't a vicious evil death eater there will always be twenty more just as happy to spit in my face.”

“It's not like that,” Harry said weakly.

“It is exactly like that, you blithering moron!” Draco snapped, “Because you're you and I'm me and nothing in the world is going to change that!”


The mug shattered on the front of the refrigerator, shards of ceramic and tea spraying everywhere. The shards skittered across the floor and then were silent. Tea slowly dripped onto the tiles in faint plips.

Draco pushed himself off the counter and went to the door, throwing the lock and hurrying outside, out into the hall, out the door and into a rapidly cooling night. He breathed in and it somehow came out as a sob. He clapped his hand over his mouth and quickly headed down the sidewalk.

He didn't care where he went, as long as it was away. Draco roughly wiped the tears from his cheeks. He knew it wasn't Potter's fault, not all of it anyway. It was all just too much. The whole day had just been too much.

A chattering, laughing noise made him look up, his feet stopping without his permission. A bar. Bright and full of laughter and shouting, clinking glasses. When he breathed in he could smell stale beer and cheap whiskey. One foot shifted towards the open door and he glared down at it.

He wanted to. Merlin he wanted to. But he could practically hear Iris' voice in his ear talking about how they made the choice to use or drink and now they had to choose not to and that it would be the hardest thing they had ever done. She was right about that.

A small traitorous voice in the back of his head promised him that one drink wouldn't hurt. Just one. Just one, little, tiny, drink. And he would feel so so much better and he could forget and he wouldn't have to think about all of this anymore. Just. One.

But it was never just one. It would ruin everything, more than it already was. And... and when it came down to it, he didn't want to ruin things. Ever since he was eleven he had wanted a place in Potter's life, any kind, even if it was the role of bratty little arsehole. And Potter hadn't kicked him out.

He probably would after this. So one drink or twenty wouldn't matter.

It was that voice again. Draco squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore it.

Two drunks stumbled out, clinging to each other's shoulders as if it would help keep them up and fell against Draco, nearly making them all fall. He caught a shoulder and shoved them off, his nose full of the smell of sour body odour, greasy food and spilled alcohol, a wave of nausea washing over him and lodging in his gut. His stomach, empty since breakfast, clenched unhappily and Draco had to hurry away before he was sick.

The spell of the bar broken, he ran down the street until his throat burned through his gasps of air. A block away he could see a small park under the light of a single street lamp, if it could be called a park. It was more like a tiny patch of packed earth and scrubby grass with old metal swings, slide, and jungle gym, all looking worse for wear. It was a marvel some community planning group hadn't torn it down already and replaced with something made of plastic with rubber mats.

Draco dropped himself into a swing. His hands curled around the cool metal chains, kicking himself into a slight pendulum back and forth, letting his feet drag across the dirt and then pushing himself up into another swing. He shivered as the night washed over his face.

Draco craned his head up, trying to pick out the few stars that had broken through London's light pollution. That was one of the few things he missed from Wiltshire. The stars had always shone so clear and brilliantly they had seemed more like magic than magic ever could.

The sound of footsteps drew his head up and found Potter coming down the sidewalk towards him. He was hastily shoving something into his pocket and Draco narrowed his eyes at the brief glimpse of something like a foldaway map they sold to tourists. “You put a tracking spell on me?” he asked.

Potter hesitated on the edge of the park, “Um, not on you. Just.... on your shoes.”

Potter managed to duck the first thrown shoe. Draco wrenched the second off his foot and hurled it at Potter's stupid head. It glanced off his temple and made Potter flinch which was a little satisfying.

“Take it off,” Draco snarled, “and if you ever put another tracking spell on me I'll light your bed on fire, while you're in it.”

“I will! I will.” Potter said holding up his hands placatingly, “I'm sorry, for everything.” he took a half step closer, “I'll try not to use your first name anymore. I didn't think about what I was saying-”

“Shocking,” Draco muttered.

“-and who you make friends with is none of my business.” Potter sighed, shaking his head and looked down at his feet.

Draco tightened his hands on the swing chains, pressing his socked feet to the cold ground and pushed off.

Potter looked up at him and smiled faintly in bemusement.

“Quit looming, Potter,” Draco said, stretching his legs out and swinging higher.

The swing next to him clinked softly as Potter sat next to him, “Are you alright?”

“I hate that question,” Draco said.

“There's nothing wrong with being worried about you is there?”

Draco scrunched his nose because Potter was right, technically. He didn't like it.

He managed to skid to a stop, likely ruining his socks, so he could look at Potter, “I hate it because the answers never going to be yes. It hasn't been yes for years and I don't want your pity. Just stop asking.”

Potter pressed his mouth flat for a second, his brows twitching in concern, “Do you think it might be someday?”

Draco shrugged, “Do I look like a seer to you?”

“No,” Potter snorted. He pushed himself slightly, staring at his feet as he touched the ground and pushed off at the top of each shallow arc. “... I put the tracking spell on you because I was afraid you'd leave. But...I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to,” he took a deep breath, closing his eyes before he dared to speak again, “I wouldn't stop you.”

Draco sighed, “You know just because you're completely off your nut doesn't mean I'm not as well.” He admitted grudgingly, “I'm not going anywhere.”

Potter managed a faint, “Oh.”

Draco leaned against the one taunt chain, the metal cold on his cheek. He was starting to feel lightheaded. It reminded him a little of being buzzed, the light halo-y feeling where the world would lurch if you moved too fast and spill out from beneath your feet. The comparison made him feel uneasy. He tightened his grip on the chains and leaned back on his arms, looking up at the sky again. He just caught a glimpse of Orion's belt when his hand slipped.

He held on with only one hand for just half a second, every inch of him bracing, reaching back to try and catch himself as he fell. His back hit the hard packed dirt just hard enough to startle the air from him in a gasp. His wrist throbbed faintly in a quickly ebbing pain that none-the-less promised a sprain. His calves still hung over the seat, he pulled them off and just barely managed to resist kicking the swing.

And above him was Potter, looking startled and concerned, his mouth already open to ask-“Are you-”

“Don't.” Draco said with as much venom as he could muster at the moment, which was about on par with that of a miffed kitten.

Potter closed his mouth briefly and then tried again, “Are you dead?”

The question was unexpected enough that Draco smiled without meaning to and tried to cover it with a scowl, “No, I am not.”

“Well, that's good,” Potter said with a cheeky grin that softened into something fond.

Draco had to look away. That look on Potter's face still annoyed him and made him a little angry but he was starting to like it a bit as well. He felt upset about that and didn't know why.

“Would you like help up?” Potter asked.

Draco languidly folded his arms across his waist as if he quite wanted to lay on the ground, “Thank you but no,” He said primly.

Potter laughed, “You're such a pillock!” The swing set squeaking overhead as he twisted the chain in his hands. He went silent after that, staring out in front of him in thought.

Draco shifted his shoulders, the cold and a faint damp seemed to be seeping in from the soil. He felt like he should have taken Potter's offer after all but he couldn't get up now after he refused or he'd look stupid. …. more stupid.

“I'll stop telling you what I think you ought to do.” Potter said.

Draco looked up and found Potter looking at him, his face half lit by the street lamp.

“but I still want to help you somehow," Potter went on, "Will you tell me what I can do?”

Draco's chest went tight, an aching tightness that felt like Potter's words had reached inside him and clasped his heart. “Can I keep the closet?” he asked somewhere just above a whisper.

“Yeah,” Potter nodded emphatically, “You can do whatever you want with it.”

“And I can stay in your apartment?”

He nodded.

“and sit on your counters?”

He nodded again with a faint smile, “And steal my clothes and eat strange waffle creations and watch weird talk shows and archaeology programs-”

“I like antique roadshow too.”

Potter laughed.

Draco felt like he was dreaming. Except it was a good dream for once.

Potter looked up and then around the sad little park, “It's getting late. We should go,” He nodded to himself and then backed up as far as he could go and swung forward, legs outstretched, body leaning backward until the top of the arc when he leaned pulled forward, tucking his legs under him, going higher and higher.

Draco watched, waiting for him to jump.

It was the most reckless thing one could do on a swing, that didn't involve magic, so he knew Potter would do it. Draco watched and thought that back in school, he would have done the same just to try and best Potter and then it would have turned into a contest with at least one or both of them getting hurt or starting a fight, either way, it would have ended at the infirmary.

Potter reached the top of a perfect arc, let go, and kept going over the ragged grass as easily as if he were flying. Potter always looked good in the air. He landed easily and still looked immensely pleased with himself when he turned around.

Draco raised his hands high in the air and gave him a slow bored clap, to go with an equally bored tone, “bravo.”

Potter bowed and then stepped forward, grabbing Draco's upraised hand to pull him up. He stopped when he heard Draco's faint hiss of pain.

“Sprained?” he asked, his brow knitting together.

“Maybe,” Draco said petulantly.

Potter sighed and rolled his eyes. The hand that held Draco's wrist carefully straighten his arm as Potter took out his wand and murmured a healing spell over it. , “Anything else you didn't tell me?” Potter asked as the pain disappeared and he tightened his grip to haul Draco onto his feet.

Draco's vision went black for a second and he wavered, grabbing hold of Potter's shirt. Potter's hand caught him by the shoulder and held on tightly.

Draco said, “It's possible I haven't eaten since this morning.”

“Moron,” Potter scolded, letting go of Draco's shoulder once he was certain he could keep upright on his own.

Draco laughed. He let go of Potter's shirt slowly, uncurling one finger at a time and then smoothing the fabric and tracing the bottom of his collarbone in the process. Potter was very warm. “That's something else you can do for me.”

“What?” Potter asked.

Draco looked up and found Potter's face great deal closer than he had expected to and felt his face get warm. You...” he blinked, trying to focus, “....You can stop being nice to me.”

Potter's eyebrow twitched and he smiled lopsidedly, “You want me to be mean to you?” he asked.

Potter hadn't let go of his hand and he was pressing his thumb into Draco's wrist, massaging the bundle of tendons and bones as if they were still injured. It was very hard to think straight. “It',” he said absently, “Just be you.”

Potter smiled brilliantly, all teeth, his eyes crinkling at the corners and Draco kissed him without realizing. He had to kiss the corner of his mouth since the rest was stretched over that smile. Eventually, Potter got control of himself and managed to kiss back properly. He sighed and leaned into Draco, the hand on his wrist crept down to his hand and intertwined their fingers. Draco felt his other hand slide over the small of his back, tracing the top of his trousers and then slipping down to trace the skin underneath.

Draco shivered, teasing Potter's mouth open so that he could explore it with his tongue. He growled in frustration at how good Potter tasted and felt. His free hand pressed against Potter's jaw, dragging over his fingers over Potter's rough stubble.

He had been wrong, this light-headed feeling wasn't like being drunk. Being drunk had never felt like this.

Potter pulled away first, eyes still shut like he was trying to commit everything to memory, “Let's go home.”

Draco's breathing stuttered in his chest. He gripped Harry's hand a little tighter and nodded.

Chapter Text

Draco slept and slept and slept that night and didn't dream. He got nearly seven whole hours before he woke into the grey hazy light of morning. He was really starting to like Potter's couch, the cushions were so deep they seemed to swallow him up. He could pull the fluffy blanket Potter had given to him over his head and feel entirely enveloped.

He was very tempted to try and sleep the whole day, but there were things to do. He put on some of his old clothes, a pair of tailored black slacks and a simple white button down. They were too loose on him but the few tailoring spells he knew were enough to make them look decent. He retrieved an old pair of black shoes as well, though they looked a thousand time better than the old brown oxfords he had worn two years straight, held together mostly by sticking spells.

By the time Potter dragged his lazy arse out of bed, Draco had been out and returned with a latte and every newspaper and community notice he could find.

Potter stumbled to the bathroom, yawning so hugely he nearly ran into the door frame. Draco turned around on the couch, sitting back and snatching up a random paper, flipping through the pages mostly to be doing something. He lifted the paper a little higher when he heard door snap back open only a minute later.

“Why does it smell like smoke?” Potter said, stomping out into the living room.

Draco stared at an article about a new kebab shop opening in the neighborhood.

Potter finally zeroed in on the wastebasket set in the middle of the room between the couch and dining table. He picked it up, “What was this? Are you a pyromaniac as well as a self-destructive arsehole?”

Draco lowered his paper slightly and affected a bland expression, “No. and I'm not going to tell you.” He turned a page, “It's important to provide mental stimulation for a healthy mind.”

Potter paused, breathing in through his nose and letting it out slowly, “That's dogs. You provide mental stimulation for dogs.”

“Oh,” Draco said with mild interest, looking up and over his shoulder at Potter, “Fancy that.”

He watched as Potter took another deep breath, his mouth pressed together in an expression that could only be described as 'it's too bloody early for this shite.'

Draco turned back to his paper with a faint smirk. He skimmed through articles without paying too much attention, listening to Potter as he walked through the apartment, looking over everything to try and figure out what the ashes in the bottom of the wastebasket had once been. He had nearly made a full circuit when he froze, coming out his bedroom and hurriedly walked over to the front door.

Potter went through his jacket pockets, “...the map? And-” his brow furrowed as he turned a half circle on his heel, “Your shoes?” He looked over at Draco, “You burned my map of london and your shoes? I took the tracking spell off!”

Draco sniffed, “It made me feel better.”

Potter's eyes widened“Where are my shoes? Did you burn my shoes?!”

“That too.”

“Why did you burn my shoes!?” Potter threw up his hands.

Draco raised an eyebrow, “Well, I wasn't going to just burn mine was I?”

Potter put a hand on his forehead and slowly pushed it back through his hair, “I liked those shoes.”

“They were ugly and dirty. You can afford new shoes,” Draco said.

“I liked those ones,” Potter said and the tone of his voice made Draco look up.

He dropped the newspaper in his lap, half turning to get a better look at Potter's expression which was a lot more upset than Draco had anticipated. Before he could say anything Potter went back to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

Draco frowned to himself.

He slowly folded up the papers and went to the kitchen, trying his best to make breakfast the way Potter did. He didn't quite burn the bacon, he did break the eggs, but at least the toast was perfect. Potter was quiet when he came back out. He raised his eyebrows when he saw the food and raised them even higher when Draco sat at the table.

Potter sat next to him. Eventually, he asked, “Is this what you call an apology?”

Draco grimaced, “I wouldn't have called it anything.”

Potter snorted, “Noted.” He snapped a piece of bacon into two unpleasantly dry shards.

Draco's own bacon was somehow just barely cooked. He had no clue how that had even happened.

“Cook much?” Potter asked.

Draco said flatly, “My expertise is mostly limited to toasters and microwaves.”

“Would you like a few pointers next time?”

Draco glared at him.

Potter tried to fight down a grin, “Oh come off it, this is awful!” he laughed, his shoulders relaxing for the first time since he had gone back into the bathroom.

Draco felt himself smile slightly and rolled his eyes, “...I suppose, if you can teach me to make bacon as good as yours I might allow it.”

“Might allow it,” Potter repeated with an amused shake of the head.

They fell into an amicable silence, for a while at least. Potter was ruminating, to the point where he ended up fiddling with his last triangle of toast rather than eating it.

Draco shoved his empty plate to the side and leaned his elbows on the table, waiting.

“The shoes...” Potter's brow furrowed, “I-” he hesitated as if he had to tear the words from the roof of his mouth, “I didn't have a lot of things of my own growing up. My cousin would steal and destroy the things I did have...” he scrubbed his hand through his hair, “I get attached.”

Draco nodded and let out a long slow breath. That explained it.

Potter sighed, stretching his shoulders, “but it's fine. If it makes you feel better about... everything, it's fine.”

Draco frowned. He sat up, “It's not fine,” he said slowly.

Potter looked at him.

“It's not fine,” Draco repeated and the confused look on Potter's face made him want to slap him, “It's shite.” He stood abruptly, shoving his chair out of the way, “Back at school you would have hexed me as soon as you realized what I had done!”

Potter stood more slowly, crossing his arms in front of himself, “You said yourself we're not the same people we used to be.”

“Yes, but you're a fucking pushover!” Draco said, with an abrupt sweeping gesture. “You-! It's like-” Draco frowned, nearly pacing with restless energy, “Your bullshit doesn't make mine acceptable! It's still bullshit! Just-! Just fucking push back!”

Potter was staring at him wide eyed.

It made Draco want to- do something, shake him, pinch him, shove him- he'd relish a fight right now. So he did. He shoved Potter's chest with both hands, making him stumble.

Potter's eyes narrowed, “Don't-”

Draco closed the distance between them and shoved him again, harder.

He saw Potter's eyes blaze, “I swear-”

Draco reached out and Potter grabbed his wrists, tight.

Fine, Malfoy,” Potter said, his voice a low rumble, “It's not okay, that's what you wanted to hear?” he took a step forward, pushing Draco back, “And I'm fucking pissed you burned my favorite tenners because they were mine and I liked them,” He squeezed Draco's wrists a little bit tighter, “Happy now?”

Draco smirked very, very briefly, “Yes but no, but yes.”

They stared at one another, on a knife's edge of tension, both breathing too hard, their jaws tensed too tight.

Potter took a deep breath and let it out all in one go, his grip on Draco's wrists slowly loosening.

Draco tugged his hands free and rubbed his wrists absently, watching to see what Potter would do next.

Potter slung his arms over loosely Draco's shoulder and dropped his forehead on Draco's shoulder with a groan, “Why are you so fucking exhausting?”

“Are you hugging me?” Draco asked in disbelief.

“Shut up, Malfoy.”


Shut up, Malfoy.”

Draco couldn't personally see the appeal. He absently put his hands on Potter's hips, they were still clad in soft cotton pajama bottoms. Potter was warm. Draco stared at the wall opposite, there was a stain up by the ceiling that looked almost like a dick, but almost anything can look almost like a dick. It was a curse of little boys that they never grew out of.

“Do you dance at all?” Draco asked.

Potter sighed, “What happened to shutting up?”

“I did.”

“For about twenty seconds.”

“Your point being?” Draco raised an eyebrow, “If you want me to be quiet longer then be less boring.”

Potter pulled his head up and gave Draco a flat look, “You are intolerable.”

“I know,” Draco said and then added a shrug.

Potter pinched him hard on the arm.

Draco flinched, slapping his hand away, “Brute.”

“A minute ago you wanted me to hit you,” Potter rolled his eyes.

“Me?” Draco said, mock offended, “Never. I happen to be a model citizen.”

“Model of what not to do,” Potter said.

Draco said solemnly, “You wound me.”

Potter laughed.

Draco smiled, “So do you dance?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“I used to love to dance,” Draco said, taking Harry's hand and shifting his grip on his hip.

Potter hesitated, “I'm rubbish at it.”

“Just let me lead, we'll start slow.” Draco said.

“There's no music,” Potter said.

Draco sighed impatiently and took Potter's hand, putting it on his shoulder, “Your breathing will keep time, one- in, two- out, three- in, four- out. Watch you feet if you need to at first, get used to each step and then learn the movement between them, the flow that connects it all into an endless rhythm.”

He watched the rise and fall of Potter's chest and moved them with it through a simple waltz, keeping the circle of their movement small so they didn't run into anything. Potter moved a little behind each of Draco's steps, his head fixed down at his feet, a furrow of frustration growing between his eyes.

“Don't be so impatient,” Draco said, one corner of his mouth quirking up in a smile, “It's not as if you learned every spell first time, did you? It's not going to kill you to be rubbish at first.”

Potter glanced up, the split second of his expression said that he didn't believe Draco in the slightest, then looked back down at his feet.

Draco felt... happy.

Despite his whining, Potter was improving, so that were moving at the same time and his palms had stopped sweating, which Draco was doubly glad for that, it was distracting. He would have to make sure to get that radio as soon as possible. Dancing was better with music.

There was a loud ringing knock on the door.

Potter froze like a deer in headlights.

“Harry? Are you there?” A muffled Weasley voice called.

“fuck!” Potter hissed and then immediately signaled to Draco to be quiet.

Draco raised an eyebrow.

“Of course he's here!” Granger said impatiently, “Just open the door.”

Potter squeezed his eyes shut in a more silent version of fuck.

Weasley said reluctantly, “He gave this to us for emergencies.”

“I'd say taking a week off with barely any notice and canceling all his plans with us does constitute an emergency, Ronald.” There was a pause where Potter seemed to be holding his breath and then the sound of a key in the lock.

Draco blinked in a surprise as a disillusionment charm snapped over him.

Potter was already putting his wand away, leaning close to whisper, “Just be quiet-please, please.”

“Am I your dirty little secret, Potter?” Draco murmured back, fighting to keep the amusement out of his voice.

Potter turned round to face the door, “I just need to explain and everything will be fine,” he said breathlessly as the door opened.

Weasley and Granger looked pretty much as Draco remembered them. Weasley might have been taller and more freckled, if that were possible. Granger looked... less stressed. At school, he always seemed to see her with a pinch between her eyes like there couldn't possibly be enough time in the day to learn everything the world had to offer her.

Potter's shoulders were stiff as a corpse. He looked the absolute picture of someone caught out doing something naughty. Walked in on by his parents as well, Draco tutted silently in his mind. The situation was absolutely absurd. There was no way it would work out the way Potter wanted it to.

“Err... you're here,” Weasley said.

Granger pushed past him, looking over Potter, still in his pajamas and then the apartment, her eyes lingering on the two sets of dishes on the table, the papers scattered around the couch and the many other little things that indicated a second person was there.

“Hermione was worried. We tried owling you,” Weasley said.

The owl in question had a magnificent sense of timing as it landed outside the window and impatiently tapped on the pane as if it weren't the one holding things up.

Weasley sighed, “Pig! Can't you even manage one thing right?” He gestured for the tiny owl to go away and it just determinedly tapped on the window again. Weasley stomped over to the window and pulled it open, shooing the animal away.

Granger had finished her inspection and crossed her arms over her chest, “What's going on, Harry?”

“Erm...nothing?” Potter said.

Draco had to bite his tongue not to burst out laughing.

Granger narrowed her eyes, “You suddenly take a week holiday without telling anyone, skip out on the Weasley family dinner-”

“-and cancel game night!” Weasley lamented.

“-That too,” Granger nodded, “and you've had company.” she narrowed her eyes suspiciously, “Unless they're still here.”

Potter shook his head, “No! It's just-”

Granger pulled out her wand as she walked forward, stopping right in front of Potter, her wand nearly stuffed up his nose as she cast, “Homenum revelio.

Draco felt Granger's magic engulf him, outlining his form in a faint glimmer that only she would be able to see. Her wand instantly shot up to the empty space where Draco was.

Fairly certain about how this particular scenario was going to play out, Draco raised his hands above his shoulders, spreading the fingers wide so that when she removed the spell there could be no doubt he was unarmed.

Granger dispelled the disillusionment and gasped faintly at the sight of Draco, taking a step back. Her wand staying unnervingly trained on his face. Weasley was quick to follow suit.

He had two wands pointing at his head. He was flattered, really. Also annoyed.

He glared at Weasley, “Put that away. If you cast a spell there you're going to break the telly and then I shall have to break your nose.”

“What is he doing here!?” Granger demanded.

Weasley nearly talked right over her, “I don't have to do anything you say, Ferret!”
Potter shouted over the both of them, “Put your wands away!”

They stared at Potter wide-eyed.

“I am unarmed,” Draco added in the following silence, only a little bitterly.

“What's going on?” Granger asked again, lowering her wand slightly.

No one seemed to be aware of how stupid this was which was a shame, but more fun for him.

Draco dropped his hands, “I'm Potter's new house elf,” he said primly, “You know how he feels about the poor, wretched things so he's hired me on instead.”

Potter turned to look at Draco, his eyebrows shooting up in dismay.

“No one's going to believe that,” Weasley said.

Draco raised an eyebrow, “But I is,” he said as solemnly as he could manage, “Good morrow Masters, can Draco be of service?”

Potter pressed his lips together, fighting down a grin.

The pitiful pair were staring at him like he'd gone round the bend.

Draco bent at the waist in a clumsy house-elf bow, “I be preparing tea? Bacon?”

“This isn't funny, Malfoy.” Granger said, the set of her jaw looking to back up her words.

Unfortunately, Potter was biting his lip, his shoulders starting to shake as he tried not to laugh.

Draco couldn't stop now.

Draco said gravely, “Has Draco displeased the Masters? Should Draco punish himself? I stomp on own foot until you are happy?”

Weasley perked up, “Yeah, go on then.”

Draco couldn't have been happier. He looked at Granger in startled surprise, “Abuse of a magical species in service to a wizarding household?” he gasped, “That's quite illegal now, isn't' it?”

Granger pursed her lips and shot Weasley a look, “Don't encourage him, Ron.”

“It was your law even,” Draco went on, pleased to have a use for one of the few pieces of wizarding news he had picked up over the last two years.

“You're not a house-elf though,” Weasley pointed out.

Draco looked down at himself and looked surprised after a second, “It seems you are correct.”

Potter drew in a ragged breath, pushing up his glasses to wipe his eyes.

“Are you alright?” Weasley asked.

Potter answered him by bursting out laughing.

“It's not funny,” Granger said.

“It is,” Potter said shakily, taking a deep breath and wiping his eyes again, “Fuck.”

“I thought the Malfoy stuff was over with,” Weasley sighed, “You'd quit looking for him. Barely mentioned him at all.” He shoved his wand away in his pocket, “Then the slimy little rat crawls out of whatever sewer he was holed up in-”

“Gutter.” Draco corrected, ignoring the instant scowl on Weasley's face, “If we're going for accuracy.”

“-and ruins everything.” Weasley finished stubbornly, deepening his scowl.

Granger was giving him a fairly good scowl as well, “He'll get tired of him soon enough. Nostalgia is nothing like the real Malfoy.”

“You can touch me for one,” Draco said.

Potter snorted and grinned. He cleaned his glasses off and then carefully put them back on the bridge of his nose, “The Malfoy from school was an intolerable git. This one is more...” he smiled lopsidedly at Draco in something like that fond smile, but more snarky, sharper, and entirely less unpleasant

“Lovable? Charming? Debonaire?” Draco suggested, “Endearing?”

Potter pointed a finger, “That's it, an endearing git.”

“Rude,” Draco huffed.

Potter smirked.

“I hate everything about this,” Weasley said flatly.

“Harry, can we talk?” Granger said in a quiet tone, stepping close to him. Concern absolutely oozed from every pore, so Draco wasn't too surprised when Potter caved and they moved down the end of the hall, their conversation muted just enough that Draco could only make out the occasional word.

“Now,” Weasley said levelly, “What are you really up to, Malfoy?”

Draco rolled his eyes, “Boring.”


Draco walked around the couch and dropped back into the cushions, picking up the paper he had been looking through before and opened it. He idly turned pages and began skimming through the articles where he had left off.

“You're up to something. I know you are. You're not the type to just show up without a reason, so you must be after something,” Weasley said, stood right next to the couch with his hands on his sides so he could loom to the maximum of his ability.

Draco paused his newspaper perusal, “Well-”

Weasley leaned in slightly, looking triumphant.

“-Potter has always wanted a dog but the apartment has a strict no pets policy. I promised not to soil his carpets and he gets a purebred stud with impressive bloodlines. It was quite a satisfactory agreement for both parties,” Draco folded the paper over to get a better look at an advert taking up almost all of one corner.

“Quit lying, yo-”

“Why?” Draco cut him off bitterly, “Telling you the truth won't be of any benefit to me.”

Weasley sighed and dropped down in one of the armchairs. He scrubbed his fingers through the orange bristle brush he called hair, “Look, when you're done, doing-” he waved his hand vaguely “-whatever it is you're doing can you just go?”

Draco idly folded the paper in half again.

“You always brought out the worst in him and I doubt that's changed. He's finally happy, he doesn't need you...” Weasley's mouth tightened in a brief grimace, “mucking things up.”

Draco frowned, feeling cold and not at all amused. He said stiffly, “That's a shame, for you, the worst of him has always been what I liked best.” He stood slowly, using to movement to steal a deep breath.

And he's not happy, the thought flitted through his mind like a flash of quicksilver that made him freeze as if it might disappear. He would never have thought it before, why would Harry Potter have any reason to be unhappy? Yet, his small isolated apartment, how his work affected him and his truly baffling fixation on Draco, all pointed to something being... not quite right.

“Do you mean that?” Weasley asked.

Draco half-turned away with a flippant wave, not listening.

“You can't be serious!” Granger said, following Potter back into the room.

“I'm not going to talk about this anymore, Hermione,” Potter said.

Granger was furious, both her hand balled up into fists, “You can't let him live here!-”

Weasley bolted to his feet, “Malfoy's living here?!”

“-No one knows where he's been since the war!” Granger went on, “Who knows what he's been doing, you can't just trust him enough to- to let him stay here!”

Potter caught his gaze and rolled his eyes briefly. Draco quirked a brief smile, feeling unaccountably relieved that Potter hadn't told Granger that he had in fact spent the last two years drinking himself insensible.

“You're letting him live here?” Weasley repeated, “What are you doing, mate?”

Potter pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath, his mouth pressed into a line.

“This obsession isn't healthy,” Granger said, “you should see a mind healer or-”

Draco held up his paper, “Have you been to the aquarium, Potter?”

Potter blinked in surprise for only a second before smiling faintly and walked over to look at the advert for the Sea Life's new jellyfish exhibit. He looked up at Draco with a smile, “I haven't.”

The dutiful duo stared at them open mouthed.

“Would you like to?” Draco asked.

Potter glanced over at the couch, “That's what all the papers were about?”

“You said this was the first holiday you'd taken since you started,” Draco said, “You ought to do something.”

“Let me get changed,” Potter gave his arm a brief squeeze before disappearing into the bedroom.

“You can't just go to the aquarium!” Granger yelled at the closed door, “There's something wrong, this is wrong!”

Granger whipped around and Draco took an involuntarily step backwards. He had been on the receiving end of Granger's fist once already and he was not interested in a repeat performance.

“You've done something, a potion-” she narrowed her eyes, “a spell?”

“Potter can throw off an Imperius, I highly doubt any lesser spell would have an effect on him,” Draco said blandly, feigning a calm he didn't feel.

Granger narrowed her eyes, “It's a potion then, a love potion probably.”

Draco sighed, “And I suppose I gave him a potion in sixth year as well?”

Granger had her hand on her wand in her pocket, “That's not funny-!”

“'Mione,” Weasley said placatingly, walking up to her and resting a hand on her wand arm, “It wasn't a joke. Malfoy just meant he never needed a potion. It's Harry's old obsession all over again.”

“It could be a potion,” Granger said, keeping her eyes fixed on Draco.

Draco raised an eyebrow, “If you think I would ever do anything illegal again and risk getting thrown into Azkaban you're barmy. Especially to Potter, of all people.”

“He may be a slimy git,” Weasley said, “but he's not stupid.”

Granger frowned and let go of her wand, “Fine. Maybe. I still can't believe Harry would let Malfoy stay here.”

“I can,” Weasley said bitterly, “You know how he'd go on and on about Malfoy on game nights and going out? Try working with him. It seemed like it would never end. Harry just hates a mystery, he'll figure Malfoy out and that will be the end of it.”

Granger nodded, still looking concerned. At least she didn't look homicidal.

Potter finally reemerged in a pair of denims and a faded tee shirt which weren't a huge improvement on his pajama's all told.

“Ready?” Potter asked, “We can grab lunch on the way there.”

Draco nodded.

“You can come along if you want,” Potter offered the treacherous twosome, the tone of his voice plainly reflecting the hope that they wouldn't.

Draco smiled smugly.

“I've seen enough sharks for one day,” Weasley said, shooting Draco an equally smug smile.

“I need to get back to work,” Granger said reluctantly, “At least come to the Burrow� this saturday. We can talk. I won't yell, I swear.

Draco saw Potter glance over at him before nodding, “Alright, saturday.”

They went out the door. Weasley paused before leaving and added with a laugh, “Owl us if you need help burying any ferrets!”

Draco scowled at his retreating back.

Potter closed and locked the door, letting out a sigh of relief, “That could have gone worse, I suppose.”

Draco crossed his arms over his chest, “No one is dead or transfigured.”

“Did they say anything to you?” Potter asked.

“What makes you think I was listening?” Draco sniffed, “Let's go. I want to see the seahorses.”

“You want to see the seahorses,” Potter repeated with amusement.

Draco glared at him, “Fuck off, they're my favorite.”

Potter laughed, “Alright, alright, let's go.”

Chapter Text

“Hello, Iris,” Draco said.

The short figure sitting primly in one of the Mind Healing ward's awful orange chairs hurried to her feet and smiled, “Good evening, Mr Malfoy.”

Iris waved for Draco to follow her back through the double doors. He peeked through into the large meeting room as they passed, where about twelve people were sitting in a ring of chairs, all their attention fixed on a thin man with grey hair and rectangular glasses. Iris lead him deeper into the ward than Draco had ever been to a small office. The blank white walls and empty desk attested to the fact that the office wasn't in use.

Iris took one of the chairs in front of the desk, an elderly cushioned chair with a faded yellow and brown tartan fabric. Draco took its twin, wincing when the chair creaked loudly.

She was wearing denims and a loose silky blue blouse. He nodded to her outfit, “No robes? I don't blame you, the colour is atrocious.”

Iris looked down, touching the hem of her shirt absently, “Oh, I have thursdays off for the next month.” She looked back up hurriedly, “I volunteer for all the group meetings, Healer Powell does as well. The St. Mungo's administrators don't allocate a lot of funds to the mind healing ward.”

“Merlin's saggy ball sack, you do this for free?” Draco said, raising an eyebrow.

Iris flushed faintly, “Well, it's important to me.”

“Going to be a Mind Healer one day?” Draco asked.

“Truthfully...” Iris looked down at her hands in her lap, took a deep breath and looked up with a defiant lift of her chin, “I think the Mind Healing program here is awful.”

Draco raised his eyebrows in surprise with a faint laugh.

“I've read a lot of muggle books on psychology and they're so much more advanced than we are but there's so much resistance to even considering their studies! Wizarding culture is so wrapped up in the belief that magic is better, it's just infuriating!” her hands twisted into fists, “If it can't be fixed with a spell or potion then it can't be a real problem,” she said mockingly, “Everyone has a mind, and the mind can suffer! But no- just give them a cheering charm and send them on their way. There isn't an underlying problem that's going to resurface as soon as the charm wears off.” She stopped abruptly, pressing her mouth into a thin line.

Draco quirked a smile, “I'm impressed. I had you pegged for a Hufflepuff but now I'm starting to think Ravenclaw.”

Iris relaxed slightly and smiled, “I get that a lot, I had friends in both houses back in school. I'm sorry for getting so...” she sighed, “worked up.”

“You haven't done anything wrong,” Draco said.

Iris was quiet for a moment and then nodded slightly, “Yes. Well, actually, I'm attending a muggle university. It was terribly difficult to arrange all the paperwork.”

“For psychology?”

Iris nodded, “I can get an entire degree taking night classes while I work here. Muggles are really very impressive.”

“They do tend to be once you get to know them,” Draco said.

“You think so as well?” Iris said.

Draco smirked, “I don't seem the type, do I? I lived with them, in muggle places after-” a frown twitched across his face,” -after the war.”

“I see,” Iris said quietly.

“Are you going to become a psychologist?” Draco asked.

Iris answered carefully, “I'd like to, but for the degree I would need after I get a bachelors, I couldn't take night classes. I'd have to quit working here.” She fidgeted with her fingers restlessly, “I'm not sure I'm ready for that.”

“Well, you've time,” Draco said flippantly.

Iris smiled, “We really ought to talk about you now.”

Draco grimaced, “Must we?”

“Well, I can't force you,” Iris said in that infuriatingly soft-spoken reasonable way of hers.

Draco's grimaced deepened.

“We could do a secrets bond, if you'd be more comfortable.”

Draco sighed and rolled his eyes, leaning back in the chair so it creaked alarmingly, “Don't bother. You're not the type to go around telling other people's secrets you're-”

Iris frowned seriously, “I do want to be a psychologist and doctor-patient confidentiality is very-”

“-too goody-goody,” Draco said with a sniff.

Iris gaped at him. She slowly closed her mouth into a tiny pinch, her cheeks puffing out in indignation.

Draco burst out laughing,“If you had done that the first time I pissed you off, I would have liked you a lot sooner!”

“Oh, cut it out,” Iris said with a huff.

Draco smiled and waved a hand, “Yes, yes.”

Iris sat up straighter in her chair, folding her hands together on her lap, “How have you been since the last meeting?”

“That is a terribly vague question,” Draco said with a sharp smile, “but since you asked; fairly well.”

She waited expectantly, leaning forward slightly, “That's all you're going to say?”

Draco raised an eyebrow, “I did say, it's a terrible, vague, question. You didn't expect me to make this easy did you?” he smirked.

“You have been irregularly helpful,” Iris said with a small sigh, “So, I had hoped.”

Draco shrugged one shoulder.

“Any drinking then?” Iris asked.

Draco shook his head.

“That's wonderful. How are you holding up, any temptations, or cravings?”

“Cravings most days. And there was.... a bar,” Draco smirked weakly, “I got stuck in front of it for quite a while.”

“But you didn't drink,” Iris said encouragingly.

Draco shook his head slightly, shifting in the squeaky chair, “Only because a few drunken sops ran into me smelling like a sewer. It was either leave or vomit.”

Iris sighed, “You still resisted until then, you still fought against the draw of your addiction. You did that. You deserve to be proud of every victory, no matter how small. Because small victories are how we make progress.”

“You sound like an inspirational poster,” Draco said.

“Well, they put them up for a reason don't they?” Iris said right back, looking justifiably pleased with herself.

Draco sighed.

“How's your sleep?” Iris asked.

Once I got almost a full night's sleep,” Draco said.

“So, improving then?”

“Small victories,” Draco said a touch sarcastically.

Iris smiled, “How... are you filling your time? Are you going to get a job? A hobby?”

“Going out mostly, right now. I took Potter to the aquarium, the London eye, a few museums...” Draco frowned in annoyance, “he doesn't really have the patience for museums, he'll just look at the piece for five seconds and move on. He doesn't read the placards or want to do any of the tours, it makes me want to hex him sometimes.”

“Mr Potter is still looking after you?” Iris asked.

Draco made a face of undisguised disgust, “Oh, he tried. It was wretched. Took me days to make him stop.”

“You don't want him to help you?” Iris asked trying to mask the confusion in her voice.

Draco sighed, shaking his head slightly, “Trust me, the Harry Potter the Ministry and the history books are trying to sell you is so completely off the mark it's nearly fiction. If they took only your best side and only your accomplishments and then greatly overinflated the lot, you'd look like a self-important arsehole too.”

Iris blinked in surprise. For a brief moment, Draco thought she was going to say something and then she decided against it.

Draco went on, “Potter is an absolute workaholic for one.”

“My co-workers say the same about me,” Iris said.

Draco rolled his eyes, “I suppose you've not had a proper holiday in two and a half years and would absolutely leave in the middle of the first one you've had if you were called in.”

“I-” Iris hesitated and her brow furrowed as she thought about it, “Well, St. Mungo's gives all of its staff twenty-eight days paid leave, in line with the muggle standard. I have a bad habit of only taking two or three weeks but...” she bit her bottom lip, “He's really never taken a holiday before?”

Draco crossed his arms over his chest with a nod, feeling terribly smug.

“And they called him in?”

Draco nodded again.

“And he went?” Iris asked, her brow furrowing, “Are they short staffed?”

“I doubt it,” Draco sniffed.

Iris sat back in her chair looking thoughtful, “Do you know if he saw anyone after the war? A therapist or a psychologist?”

“I don't know,” Draco said, feeling some of the enjoyment drain out of him. It had been far more fun to gossip about Potter before Draco had decided to care about him. “He's not the type to ask for help, so I doubt it.”

She frowned, her brow drawn together into a knot. She blinked with sudden realisation and looked back up at Draco with a huff, “We're meant to be talking about you!”

Draco quirked an eyebrow.

“Would you be more comfortable with someone else?” Iris said, full of concern and not, as he had been expecting, upset or annoyed in the slightest. “I know a few psychologists, family of muggleborn witches and wizards, that accept patients with a magic background.”

“No. You're fine,” Draco said with a faint smile, “I'm used to talking to Slytherins and annoying Gryffindors. You're the first... Ravenpuff I've ever spent much time around.”

“Ravenpuff?” Iris laughed.

“Would you prefer Huffleclaw?”

Iris covered her smile and shook her head.

“In the end, the problem is with me, not you,” Draco said, trying to keep his smile and feeling it turn melancholic.

“Have you ever really talked about your emotions, let yourself be vulnerable?” Iris asked in such a gentle voice that Draco was torn between annoyance and feeling intensely moved.

He shook his head, “It's not really done in my family.”

“Are you comfortable with talking about those sorts of things with me?” Iris asked.

Draco hesitated, absent-mindedly correcting his posture before realising what he was doing and forcing himself to relax, “I shall certainly tell you if I become uncomfortable.”

Iris nodded and took a deep breath, “Well, I suppose, the best place to start is to understand why you started drinking in the first place. In group you said it helped you sleep and got rid of your nightmares, is that the core of it? Were there any other factors, do you think?”

Draco hesitated again, shifting uncomfortably in the squeaking chair. The emptiness of the room was starting to wear on him, the blank walls, the faint layer of dust and horrible sodding chair. “How would you feel about going for a walk?” Draco asked, glancing around, “This room makes me feel like we're trapped in purgatory.”

“...Alright,” Iris sighed, standing up, “but I also feel like you're avoiding talking about yourself again.”

“I'll talk,” Draco said.

As they made their way through the dim silent halls and out of the seldom used front doors of the hospital, Draco put his thoughts in order. It was cool outside and twilight dim. Draco let Iris lead, trusting her to know the neighbourhood better than he.

“I started drinking periodically in the summer before I had to take the mark,” Draco said, glancing at his forearm, “When I left the school, after utterly failing my mission, there were a few times I just needed it because if I had to think about everything that was happening I felt like my head would explode.” He squeezed his forearm.

“It's ok, go on,” Iris prompted him.

“I feel like I'm making excuses.”

Iris glanced up at him, her hand touched his arm, both comforting and guiding him onto the path of a neighbourhood park filled with well-spaced trees and wide paved walking lanes. “Suffering isn't a competition, you know. You don't have to win for it to be valid.”

It was less like a competition than the feeling that he deserved it. He looked down at himself, even in the low light and hidden by his shirt, he could trace every single faint scar that covered his chest. Potter would hate it, that Draco saw those scars as his punishment for what he did sixth year. He would never accept that Draco needed them to be that, that sixth year was the worst he had ever done and the worst he would ever do and he needed to know he had been punished for his actions by the one person, aside from Dumbledore himself, that Draco felt had the right to do so.

“Do you want to stop?” Iris asked.

Draco shook his head and went on, “I didn't drink after that. It was too dangerous. Bellatrix taught me occlumency before sixth year, to hide my mission from Dumbledore and Snape who were both powerful legilimens. But once I was back at the manor, she- Bellatrix- took it upon herself to train me whenever she was bored. Duelling, wordless casting, counter-jinxes, when I failed she would punish me-” he swallowed hard, “- Mother got very angry when she used crucio, so she used legilimens instead.

“At first, it was just in lessons, then constantly, erratically and without warning, dinner, in the hallways, during meetings. Nothing made her happier- other than hurting someone of course- than to catch me off guard and rifle through my mind,” He found he was shaking and wrapped his arms around himself.

“Do you want to sit down?” Iris asked, gesturing to the bench a few paces away.

Draco shook his head, he wanted to keep moving. “I started doing it constantly- occluding, It was like putting your arms up so your face won't get hit. Anyone, any movement out of the corner of my eye and it was easier sometimes-” his brow furrowed, his eyes beginning to ache, “-all the time... to occlude than to have to see and hear what was happening,” he took a deep breath, “and then I couldn't stop. The drinking made it so I couldn't concentrate enough to occlude”

“I'm sorry,” Iris said quietly.

“Yes. I suspect you are,” Draco smiled weakly, wiping the corners of his eyes, “Where were you during the war?”

“I was doing my residency,” Iris said, “They left Mungo's alone for the most part. We only saw... the aftermath.”

“Better than being the middle of the shitstorm,” Draco said sourly.

Iris said tentatively, “You know, what Bellatrix did was wrong, terribly wrong.”

“I am quite aware,” Draco said dully.

“Yes, but have you ever heard anyone else say it?” Iris said and when he didn't answer she went on, “What she did was a violation of your mind and your trust. It was cruel and unnecessary and you didn't deserve it. Draco,” she grabbed his hand tugging on it so he looked at her, “Draco, you didn't deserve it.”

He knew. It was nice to hear it from someone, a witch as well, when it seemed almost everyone would quite happily say the opposite.

“No. I didn't. She was a psychopath.” Draco sighed and pushed his hair back, “Can we not talk about this anymore?”

“Well, would you be okay telling me more about occluding? How it works?” Iris asked, “I'm afraid I've never really studied it. If you'd rather not, that's fine.”

They followed the path around a bend as it began to curve back to where it started.

“Occluding has three primary steps. You generally learn and use them in the same order. The first step is clearing your mind; it's a bit like... flipping a light switch or- no...” his brow furrowed faintly in thought, “If you can imagine your mind and then, taking a step back away from it, removing yourself from your emotions, memories, and what's happening around you.

He nodded to himself, “The second step is to pick and choose what you want the intruding Legilimens to see. If they find the blank slate of occluding they will know what you're doing and will be more... vicious,” he grimaced. “Ideally, a legilimens is trying to look through your mind without you being aware they are there and a good occumens is hiding their secrets without the legilimens knowing they're doing so. You pick and recall the most boring memories you can so the legilimens has to sift through those first or showing them what they think they want. And finally,” he took a deep breath, “You're ejecting them from your mind. Technically this step starts at the same time as step two, once you're good enough. Although, if your desire is to trick them, then you would just wait and let them leave on their own.”

Iris was nodding to herself. She glanced up and asked, “When you were occluding on reflex, when you couldn't control it, would you get stuck at step one?” Iris drew ahead of him several steps before she realised he had stopped walking.

“How did you know that?” Draco asked, frozen to the spot.

“Oh,” she said a bit nervously, tugging at the hem of her blouse, “The first step of occluding sounds very similar to dissociation. It's just like you said, feeling removed from your body, your mind, your emotions. It's a way of coping with trauma.”

“I taught myself how to disassociate?” Draco said incredulously.

Iris walked back to him, “Or something very similar, I think.”

Draco pressed his mouth into a thin line, muttering to himself, “such a coward.”

“You're not,” Iris said with an easy light tone, as if she were just saying, the grass is green, the sky is blue, “Sometimes, when you're in a horrible situation that you can't escape from physically, you find a way to escape mentally. You found the best way to protect yourself, to keep yourself safe.”

Draco closed his eyes, squeezing them shut. “Yes, well that's all fine and good for the past. It's now that's the problem.”

“Do you still have problems with occluding?” Iris asked.

Draco remembered Mrs Crabbe at Gringotts and had to shake the image from his mind, feeling his mind drifting away like a flinch.


He pinched the back of his hand and focusing on the pain connecting himself to his body. His breathing had become quick and shallow.

He felt a small warm hand on his wrist, and blinked trying to focus.

“Can you hear my voice?” Iris asked.

He nodded.

“Good.” Iris said, “I want you to listen to me, to focus on what I'm saying. You're here, this is now. Can you hear the wind in the trees?”

He nodded, listening.

“And can you feel the path under your feet?”

He did, it was hard, solid.

“The night air, how does it feel, what does it smell like?”

“Cool,” He breathed in slowly, “It smells damp.”

“Are you feeling better now?” Iris asked, “I didn't mean to trigger you. Can you tell me what, in the broadest, simplest, terms causes you to disassociate?”

“People, from then, from the war. Deatheaters, their families. The Manor, though I don't have to worry about that anymore,” Draco said shortly. He shuddered and rolled his shoulders, stretching his neck back. He left out a shaky laugh, “Fuck I could use a drink.”

“You made it through,” Iris said sounding proud of him for some reason he couldn't fathom. “Let's keep walking.”

She took his arm and pulled him along the path and they started around the park path a second time.

“How do you normally deal with disassociating?” she asked, “I saw you pinch yourself.”

“That usually works best, shaking my head, biting my lip sometimes,” Draco said still feeling a little foggier than he liked.

The grip on his arm tightened, although Iris hid her emotions well, “Rather than that, could I teach you some other methods?”

“Rather than hurting myself, you mean?” He said bitterly.

“Yes,” Iris said quietly, “Your methods, in themselves, aren't awful but self-harm can escalate if lesser methods stop being effective. I'd rather you didn't hurt yourself.”

“Go on then,” Draco said with a nod.

They walked around the park twice more as Iris told him about grounding techniques and promised to find him more information that she would owl him later on. It was quite late by the time they made their way back to the hospital.

“Next tuesday, you'll come to group?” Iris asked as they stopped by the apparition point.

Draco nodded, “Of course.”

“And next thursday, we can meet again?”

“If you have thursdays off, we should meet earlier, get coffee,” Draco said, straightening his hair and robes in preparation to apparate back, he felt like a right mess.

“Oh, um,” Iris fumbled nervously with her shirt, “Not that- it's not- I mean, you're, uh, nice but not really my type and it would be... inappropriate,” she trailed off, no doubt flushing hot in embarrassment.

Draco stared at her for a beat and then snorted, which grew into a laugh that he had to lean on the wall to keep falling over. He laughed until the welcome witch, tired of her shushing being ignored, hit him with a stinging hex.

Iris had her cheeks puffed in indignation and looked about ready to kick him in the shin, “Fine. So you weren't asking-” she broke off with a huff.

“I haven't laughed that hard for quite a while,” Draco said, still a tad breathless and leaning against the wall. “And just so you know, you're darling, but entirely not Potter enough.”

“Oh!” Iris said in surprise and then immediately covered her mouth with her hand. Apparently unable to resist, she asked,“You and Harry Potter are-?”

Draco shrugged, “I have no idea what Potter's doing.”

“Has he said he cares about you?” Iris asked.

“He's said a lot of things. I'm not about to believe them,” Draco said as little bitterly, wondering why he was saying all this to a tiny mediwitch he hardly knew. “You'll make a good psychologist,” he decided, “You're terrifyingly easy to talk to.”

Iris blinked in surprise, “Thank you.”

Draco added, “I wouldn't be too worried about quitting your job here, after all, you can still volunteer to work with the groups, can't you?”

She seemed surprised by this idea and then nodded with a growing smile, “I could couldn't I?”

“Precisely. You simply needed the genius of Draco Malfoy to guide you,” he said smugly.

Iris grinned, “Well, let me return the favour a bit then,” she stepped closer, lowering her voice, “I think, you ought to try believing what Potter says to you.”

“What? All of it?” Draco said in dismay.

She nudged him with her elbow, “You know what I mean.”

“Seems unwise to me,” Draco said archly.

“What's the worst that can happen?” Iris asked, “Really. Tell me the absolute worst thing that might happen if you do.”

Draco glanced away in thought, “He throws me out on my arse, with a few hexes, says he never wants to see me again and wishes I were dead.”

“Ok,” Iris said taking a deep breath, “Now, what's the absolute worst thing that could happen if you don't?”

“I...” Draco hesitated, “...he throws me out, with hexes, never see me again and wishes for my death...” he frowned to himself, “and I never get to touch his arse.”

Iris smacked his arm in embarrassment.

Draco smirked, “I see your point now.”

“You're awful,” she grumbled.

“And you're delightful,” Draco said brightly, “I look forward to speaking with you again next week.”

Iris nodded, stepping back, “I hope today was helpful.”

“It was, I think,” Draco said a touch quietly, gave Iris a wave and stepped into the apparition zone, disappearing with a crack.

Draco wobbled when the world stopped moving, putting a hand out and finding Potter's couch to steady him. The lights were still on so either Potter was still up or he had forgot to turn them off. Draco braced his hand on the couch and swung himself over, landing with a thud and a rather alarming clunking sound from somewhere in the couch itself. He rolled on his back in the cushions, kicking his shoes off over the end.

“I should have known all the noise was you,” Potter said as he pulled open his bedroom door, his footsteps indicating that he was making his way into the kitchen.

“Having a wank, Potter?” Draco said.

“Fuck off, Malfoy.”

“It's more fun with company,” Draco shot back.

“How would you know?” Potter deadpanned.

Draco grinned. He pulled himself up and composed his expression into one of despair, “I'm wounded.” He pressed a hand to his chest, “Struck by a killing blow. How could I ever survive such a cutting remark?”

“You are the most melodramatic human being I've ever met,” Potter came around the couch carrying a square paper box and two forks, “Budge over,” he waved at Draco impatiently.

Draco swung his legs off the couch and Potter dropped down beside him, passing him a fork and easing the lid off the box. It contained a very small cake covered with a whipped chocolatey frosting as glossy as silk and lightly dusted with cocoa powder.

“Do you like tiramisu cake?” Potter asked, “The bloke at the shop said it's made with espresso.”

“There's no such thing as bad cake, Potter,” Draco said absently, all his attention fixed on the box.

Potter carefully took the box apart, apparently not interested in plates. In Draco's opinion, food tended to taste better when it was eaten unconventionally and he heartily approved.

“What's this for?” Draco asked, carefully taking the corner of the cake and guiding it to his mouth with the utmost care. It was rich and sweet, coffee and chocolate, carefully layered into something absolutely divine. Draco groaned at the taste, enjoying it almost as much as Potter shivering at the sound.

“Well-” Potter said a bit roughly, studiously not looking at Draco and clearing his throat before he went on, “-I saw the shop when I was out having a walk, and thought you might like it.”

Draco took another forkful of tiramisu, going for more of a breathy moan this time around.

Potter cleared his throat again, shifting uncomfortably in the couch cushions, “Also, because you've taken me around and I know I annoyed you at the museum...”

Draco rolled his eyes but favoured continuing to eat before Potter realised.

Potter realised, “Hey!” he glared at Draco and finally put his fork into service, “I bought this to share!”

Draco didn't much care. Unfortunately, Potter was holding the cake and shifted it out of reach. Draco frowned, “I'm an only child, I wasn't raised to share,” he said petulantly.

He watched as Potter slowly, tauntingly, ate two more bites, out of reach. He groaned like a wanton whore with each bite, making Draco squirm as he started to get hard.

“Here,” Potter said moving the lovely dessert back in reach now that it was even again, a triumphant smirk on his face.

Draco glared at him and slowly took another bite, humming a whimper and licking the frosting from his lips.

Potter's jaw clenched, “You bastard.”

Draco raised an eyebrow in challenge which led to them eating the rest of the cake with as much moaning and licking frosting and being absolutely fucking shameless as they could manage until the cake was gone and they were both helplessly hard.

“That was a stupid idea,” Potter said, dropping the box onto the coffee table, still looking flushed, his cock straining against his jeans.

Draco slowly pulled the tines of the fork out of his mouth, darting his mouth out to lick them even though they were quite clean, just for good measure. He tossed the fork, letting it clatter across the coffee table and then skitter over and onto the floor.


“Shut up,” Draco said mildly as he braced his knee on the couch, twisting to straddle Potter's lap.

Potter's complaints died in his throat, his own fork frozen half way to nowhere.

Draco caught his wrist, pulling the fork to his mouth and slowly licking the front and then the back, before plucking it from Potter's nerveless fingers and flicking it over his shoulder where it made a rather loud clatter.

Potter swallowed hard, “What are you-”

Draco cut him off with his mouth, slipping his tongue inside as soon as Potter would let him, tasting the remnants of tiramisu and sweet Potter all mixed up together. “This is an experiment,” Draco said as he pulled away.

“What sort?” Potter asked, his voice lower, rougher.

Draco licked his lips, his hands going down to his trousers and working the buttons loose one at a time, “ find out, if wanking is more fun with company.”

Potter reached for him and Draco smacked his hand away, “Ah-ah-ah, Potter,” Draco said, keeping his eyes fixed on Potter's expression as he wrapped his hand around his cock, “Just wanking.”

Potter bit his lip, a groan rumbling through his chest that made Draco shiver.

Every breath was coming out heavier, Potter's own breathing was rising to meet his as he watched Draco transfixed as he slowly stroked his cock, twisting a little tighter at the head, feeling harder than he had any right to be just from Potter watching him.

Draco leant forward, their foreheads nearly touching, “Touch yourself, Potter.”

Potter's head jerked up, their eyes meeting and Draco took the opportunity to steal another hungry kiss, biting Potter's lip as he pulled away.

“I want to see you touch yourself,” Draco murmured against his lips, licking where he had bitten before dropping his mouth, kissing along Potter's jaw line, rough with black coarse stubble he had to pull his tongue and teeth across it.

Potter groaned again and Draco raised his free hand to press it against Potter's chest; to feel everything, his heart racing, his breathing shuddering, the rolling growl and made Draco hum a whimper in response, biting his lip to mask the noise.

The sound of a zipper pulled Draco's eyes down as Potter finally managed to push his trousers and pants out of the way freeing his cock. He wrapped it up in his hand and stroking it with the sort of desperation that sent a bolt of pleasure down Draco's spine, to the tips of his toes and back again.

“I want to touch you,” Potter said, his eyes squeezed shut for just the briefest moment before he pulled them open again and looked at Draco with pupil blown wide with lust.

Draco smiled brief and breathless, “Focus on the task at hand, Potter.” He shuddered as the heat and pressure and pleasure began to build, even as he fought to slow it down, to draw the moment out.

He couldn't drag his eyes away from Potter's face, watching his orgasm building, his thighs tensing under Draco's legs, his expression being consumed with pleasure, coming with a groan over his fingers and muffled fuck. Draco managed to hold on until he saw Potter work himself through, clutching Potter's shirt desperately, eyes squeezed shut as he came over his hand with a stifled moan.

Potter pressed his forehead to Draco's, both still breathing heavy.

Draco pulled his eyes open, “I was right,” he said with a faint smirk, “It is more fun with company.”

Potter laughed, “You're such an arse,” He opened his own eyes and they just stared at one another for what seemed like ages.

It didn't bother Draco as much as it normally did. Probably because he was high on endorphins from a spectacular orgasm. “Can you use magic here?” Draco asked.


“Clean us up then, would you?” Draco said, leaning back slightly and grimacing at their mutual mess.

Potter's brow furrowed as he concentrated and then flicked his wrist.

Draco shuddered as a wave of magic washed over him. “Was that wandless?” He asked, shoving himself back into his pants but leaving his trousers unbuttoned.

“Yeah,” Potter shrugged, tucking himself away and doing up his denims.

Draco scrunched his nose, “Thought so, it felt like a fucking brillo pad. There is a time and a place for showing off, cleaning spells are not one of them.”

Potter blinked, “Most people are impressed.”

“Good for them,” Draco sniffed, “Feel free to go to most people when you're looking to get your ego stroked. Next time, use a fucking wand.”

“Alright,” Potter said with a grin, “Now, could you move, my legs are going numb.”

“Have they gone tingly yet?” Draco asked hopefully.

No,” Potter said, “move or I'll stand and dump you on the floor.”

Draco sighed and shifted back to his place on the sofa, “Fine.”

“What brought this on anyway?” Potter said, “Not that I'm complaining, but it didn't seem like you were terribly interested before.”

Draco glanced over and then took Potter's arm, pulling it around shoulders and leaning back into him, “My therapist.”

“They said you should wank in my lap?”

“Hardly,” Draco laughed. “She just convinced me to... risk a little.”

“I'll have to thank her someday,” Potter said, tightening his arm around Draco a little.

“You're such a pervert.”

“You're the one who-!” Potter broke off and sighed, “Fine. Look, it's late, do you want to go to bed?”

“No,” Draco said.

“What about tv?” Potter suggested.

Draco shrugged, “ 'suppose.”

“I'll take that as a yes,” Potter said, briefly pulling himself free of Draco to get the remote. “Anything you want to watch in particular?”

“Just flip through.”

Potter nodded.

The screen flickering on and then flashing through the various programs. Draco wasn't paying much attention, “Did you know, in ancient greece they thought the sun orbited around the earth?”

“No, maybe, might've heard it somewhere,” Potter said absently.

Draco shifted down in the cushions so he could press himself into the curve of Potter's shoulder, “ full of themselves, thinking they're the centre of the universe when the earth orbited around the sun all along.”

“What is this about?” Potter asked, pausing his channel surfing to look over at him.

Draco shrugged, “Been thinking about it lately.”

Potter looked confused briefly and then flipped a few more channels before stopping, “It's not history or weird but a nature documentary's all right, right?”

“Sure,” Draco murmured, trying to stifle a yawn, his eyes slowly blinking closed.

Chapter Text

Draco had to pee. He blinked his eyes open into a blaze of brilliant sunlight and utter confusion. The sun was up and birds were yelling at each other like utter twats, the way mornings tended to start. Draco couldn't remember the last time he had actually slept so long that he was woken by the need to piss.

As the initial shock of that little surprise waned, Draco became aware of something else. He was not lying on the soft couch cushions but on a far less soft chest, slowly rising and falling beneath him. Draco grabbed hold of the back of the couch and pulled himself up. Potter was sleeping, laying half slumped against the corner of the couch with his neck at an awkward angle. At some point Draco had been covered with a blanket, his legs swung up on the cushions. He wondered if Potter had intended to fall asleep there, like an utter moron, or had been planning to go to bed and fell asleep on accident. Since he was still wearing his glasses, Draco supposed it was an accident.

Draco reached over and brushed the hair from Potter's forehead absently, getting a brief glimpse of the fading scar on his forehead before Potter's hair stubbornly returned to its normal chaotic state. He was careful to ease his weight off the sofa slowly and made his way to the bathroom as quietly as he could manage. The relieved himself and brushed his teeth so his mouth no longer tasted like a tiramisu had died in it, splashed water on his face and made his way back towards the couch. He was plotting on how best to insinuate himself back next to Potter when a soft tapping made him turn to the window.

An owl was sitting on the empty planter outside, it was a scruffy nondescript brown owl with feathers sticking up at odd angles. Ministry owls always looked like they were just about to molt which was to say they looked like shit. He opened the window, wincing when it squeaked and reached for the message tied to the bird's leg. It nipped him hard, spreading its wings and flapping them a few times like a warning.

So the message wasn't for him. Not that Draco had much suspected that it would be. He glanced over his shoulder and, finding Potter still asleep, had another go at grabbing the stupid owl. He managed to catch hold of the leg, untying the message with his other hand, while trying to ignore being pecked to death. He pulled the small note free and grinned smugly at the stupid animal. The owl glared at him and nipped him hard on the arm. Draco shoved it off the window box.

The horrid bird flew back to the hellhole from whence it had emerged and Draco very nearly slammed the window shut after it before remembering he was trying not to wake Potter. He glanced over at Potter again, just to be sure, before he carefully opened the message. It was from Robards. They were calling Potter in again.

Draco frowned, his hand tightening into a fist, crumpling the note inside it. He put the note in his pocket and sat on the couch, letting himself slide back down against Potter.

Potter twitched slightly, his breathing picking up as she blinked himself awake. He went to rub his eyes and ran into his glasses, leaving three smudged fingerprints which he glared at.

“Sleep well?” Draco asked.

Potter grunted irritably.

“So articulate.”

Potter grunted again, although it sounded a bit more like a laugh. He shifted, stretching as well as he could with Draco laying against him, wincing when he turned his head. He muttered a heartfelt, “fuck,” as he reached up and tried to rub the kinks out of his neck.

Draco, most unhelpfully, didn't move. He did crane his head back a bit to watch what Potter was doing. He also reached back and dragged a finger across Potter's cheek, “You could have a beard in three days.”

“Probably,” Potter said, yawning, “I hate how it itches so I've never tried.”

“You shave in the morning?” Draco asked.

Potter nodded, “Usually.”

“The muggle way?”

“I like the muggle way,” Potter said, giving up on his neck and taking off his glasses to clean them of his smudges.

Draco quit craning his neck and went back to staring at the wall, “Why? If you did a shaving charm it would be faster and last longer.”

“Because...” Potter sighed, “it's calming and... I like slower. It's nice to take your time, sometimes.” The couch cushions sank alarmingly as Potter braced hands and pushed himself into an upright sitting position.

Draco slid off his chest and landed in his lap, his heart doing a little leap in his chest at the sudden movement. He very nearly gasped.

“You could've warned me,” Draco said, frowning up at Potter.

“You're fine, it didn't kill you,” Potter said with a rueful little smile.

“It might have, It might very nearly done so and you just callously risked my life-” he pressed a hand to his chest where his heart was still beating a little too fast from the utter shock of the whole affair.

Potter pressed his hand over Draco's, “Hmm... I think you might make it, really.”

“You can't feel my heartbeat that way,” Draco said mostly for something to say, as laying in Potter lap and his hand on Draco's hand was all a little much, “If you could, you'd know I'm dying right now.”

“Is that so.” Potter said flatly, raising an eyebrow. He took his hand off Draco's- a small relief- and slid it up Draco's jaw, cupping his cheek, gently brushing his thumb over the corner of Draco's mouth. “Does this help?” he asked.

“Not in the slightest,” Draco said faintly, trying not to shiver.

“Oh,” Potter said, “You must be dead then.”

“Entirely,” Draco said.

Potter made an oh what a shame face, “Do you want to be buried or cremated?”

“Cremated,” Draco said, “I want my ashes thrown into the eyes of my enemies.”

Potter grinned hugely and started to laugh, let his head fall back as he did. Draco could feel the reverberations all the way down in his legs. Draco took the opportunity to escape, pulling himself up to sit beside Potter and feel incredibly smug about getting him to laugh so hard.

Merlin!” Potter gasped, “You would want that, wouldn't you?”

Draco shrugged like he really didn't care, feeling even smugger, “I suppose.”

“Well, I've got to- I'm just gonna-” Potter pointed vaguely at the bathroom and pushed himself up. He trailed huffed laughs until the sound was shut off by the door closing behind him.

Draco stared at the door for a second, then let out a breath, the grin on his face slowly fading. He went back to the window, pulling it open and resting his forearms on the frame. He took the message from his pocket and smoothed the wrinkled parchment half-heartedly. He read over the message until a gentle breeze, that still smelled faintly of morning dew, folded it closed again.

When he heard Potter come out of the bathroom Draco turned around, closing the window behind him as he held up the message, “Owl came.”

Potter's brow furrowed slightly as he crossed the beige carpet, “A ministry owl? For me?”

Draco nodded, holding the parchment out between two fingers.

Potter rubbed his clean shaven cheeks absently, “It shouldn't have delivered it to you,”

Draco raised an eyebrow, “It didn't particularly want to.”

“Did you read it?” Potter said with a frown as he took the message.

Draco raised his eyebrow even further, “In what situation would it ever occur to you that I wouldn't?” He sniffed, turning his head away slightly, “It's not as if it was interesting. Just the ministry calling their dog to heel.”

Potter scowled at the message and shook his head, crumpling it and dropping it onto the coffee table. “I thought I was a doormat,” he muttered, turning on his heel to his bedroom.

Draco followed him, pushing inside the room before Potter could shut the door and then leaned against the wall, “That comparison wasn't quite accurate enough for my liking.”

“There are worse things than dogs,” Potter said. He hesitated, looking at Draco as if he expected him to leave.

Draco crossed his arms over his chest, he might as well get something pleasant out of this whole ordeal.

“It feels like a step up from a doormat, anyway,” Potter pulled his shirt over his head and threw it into a basket in the corner.

Draco watched the strip show with interest, “A doormat doesn't have the choice of whether to be stepped on or not. A dog does.”

Potter froze, his hand stretched out to open his dresser, his brow furrowing, “...Are you saying I chose this?” he shot Draco a confused frown before pulling open the middle drawer, grabbing the first tee shirt on top, “I'm being called into work, by my boss. I mean- You don't just-” he shook his head and pulled the shirt on.

Draco tilted his head to the side slightly, and subtly shifted his tactics, “Does Weasley get called in on his days off?” he asked with as much genuine curiosity as he could muster.

Potter glanced at Draco suspiciously before picking out a pair of jeans, socks and pants all in quick succession and piling them on top of the dresser, “We all get called in for large operations.”

“Oh. So. You only get called in for large operations then? They must happen quite often,” Draco said flatly.

Potter's mouth pressed into a thin line. He pulled off his trousers and tossed them at the laundry basket, missing entirely.

“I'm sure Weasley's far too busy for a holiday, a nice little vacation like a normal person, but if he were to take one, I'm sure they'd call him in, for all those... large operations as well.”

“You're not going to leave are you?” Potter said bitterly and made sure his back was turned to Draco before he attempted to remove and replace his pants in one movement, nearly tripping himself and stumbling sideways to regain his balance.

The tee shirt obscured some but not all of Potter's arse. Draco quite approved.

“What else do they have you do...?” Draco shifted against the wall, turning his gaze to the collage of photos over the dresser, all Potter's most important people, “Call you in on regular days off... and overtime, and press conferences...” Draco said idly, “What else might the ministry call their dog for... Newspaper interviews? Do they make you do those as well?”

The twitch of Potter's shoulders was the only answer Draco needed.

Potter pulled his jeans up roughly, tucking his chin to his chest as he zipped and buttoned them. When he pulled his head up, he didn't look at Draco. He grabbed his mismatched socks and quickly put them on, “It's my job. I like my job. I like helping people.” He said it such a quiet mutter Draco almost didn't hear.

Draco wrinkled his nose, how that could possibly be true was entirely beyond his comprehension but he conceded, “Fine. However, I think you'll find that in general, people have more of a life other than their job. Job, life, two-” Draco held up two fingers, one on each hand and then pulled them apart, “-separate things.”

Potter grabbed a pair of scuffed dragonhide boots, shoving his feet in and charming the laces tied with an impatient flick of his wand. “Can you stop. Just leave my job alone.” He grabbed his auror robes and slung them over his shoulder. He gave Draco a tight guarded look, his brow furrowed into a slight frown. “I don't judge you for your life, do I? Just lay off,” he said sharply and apparated with a faint crack, the noise deadened by Potter's wards.

“Maybe you ought to,” Draco said quietly to an empty room.

Chapter Text

Draco had waffles for breakfast to make himself feel better. He was on his fourth when another owl tapped at the window. This was not a ministry owl, it was sleek and lovely with grey feathers and a calm dark gaze. He put his waffle down and quickly rinsed his sticky fingers under the tap, drying them on his trousers as he made his way over to the window.

The owl offered the roll of papers around its leg as soon as he had the window open. Draco removed them carefully and was surprised to see the owl linger. Potter didn't have any owl treats on hand, that Draco knew of, so he offered his hand and the pretty owl let him pet it the way he remembered his old eagle owl liked before flying off.

He didn't recognize the hand writing but as he carefully removed the rubber band from around the roll, he recognized the contents, pages upon pages of psychology papers and articles, probably duplicated straight from Iris' textbooks and school work. He smiled, reading the topmost paper, a note from Iris.

I hope these will help. I'll send you more as I find them. I've also included a list of the Psychologists I mentioned, please consider looking into it.

You might find the rubber band helpful as well, I've read about it being a good grounding method, used along with others. Don't rely on just one method, please.

See you at the tuesday meeting, Iris Aquino

Draco slipped the blue rubber band over his wrist, pulling it back and snapping it on the underside of his wrist, wincing at the sting on the thin delicate skin. He finished his breakfast and read, laid on the couch and read. He spent the day, reading and making notes, and re-reading to try and understand everything he could. As dusk fell, he had read everything twice over and he found a pen and a piece of paper to write a letter.

Dear Iris,

Thank you for the information, it was very interesting and useful. It did provoke some questions for me, however, and I would be grateful for your input.

Dissociation and occlusion do seem to be nearly the same thing. There is one difference. Occluding is a skill, one that I used to be able to control. Do you think it might be possible to teach myself that control once more?

In addition, I am reminded of Pavlov's dog, conditioned to drool at the sound of a bell, but I have been conditioned to occlude at what I perceive as danger. How does one break conditioning?

Is there any way you could send me more information? I would greatly appreciate it and would return everything borrowed as soon as I am able.

I would also be most eager to repay your kindness if you should desire so, although I must warn you I have very little to offer in my current state.

Yours Sincerely, Draco Malfoy

Draco quickly folded it and sealed it, apparating to Diagon Alley and hurrying to the owl emporium, managing to get there just before closing. He ignored the man at the counter's scowl, rented an owl and left an impressive tip to better ensure his letter wouldn't get “lost”, although it still might. It seemed to happen quite a lot, to him.

He bought some owl treats and detoured to Gringott's where he spent far too long, according to the goblins, going through one of his chests. He felt quite lucky to have found what he was looking for at all seeing as the chests weren't organized or labelled. They had been filled quickly, there was no time for a proper inventory.

His last stop was a muggle second-hand store in Potter's neighbourhood where he was quite lucky to find a small battery powered radio. He also picked up something to eat on the assumption that Potter would be back late.

Before heading up the stairs to Potter's flat he paused, the front door and subsequent hallway ran straight through the centre of the building. Halfway there were the stairs up but the hall continued, to a single apartment and another door leading out the back of the building. Draco had used it once, when he was looking for wood to transfigure, and vaguely remembered a little garden made of rectangular raised beds. There was an old woman, watering the bed nearest the door and she seemed to sense him staring, looking up and giving a brief wave. Draco returned it and quickly hurried up the stairs, feeling caught out.

Potter's apartment building was very quiet, the old woman was the first tenant he had seen. It was a relief really. He was starting to think the building was in some sort of hellish pocket dimension. He narrowed his eyes in thought, not entirely certain he was using dimension correctly. He only watched science programs when he lost the remote and was too lazy to try and look for it. There was too much about muggle science he didn't understand.

The apartment was indeed empty when Draco got back but Iris' owl was also waiting, tapping on the window impatiently when it spotted him. He dug out his owl treats he had bought as he walked over, offering the owl one as soon as he had the window open.

The grey owl daintily took the treat and held out its leg. There was another roll of papers and Draco quickly open them and read Iris' note.

If you were anyone else in the entire world I would say, NO, Absolutely not. Unfortunately, I have come to know you well enough, to know that I couldn't stop you if I tried. In fact, I rather suspect trying to stop you would have the effect of provoking you further.

Draco smirked.

I've sent along what I hope will be helpful. But also, Draco, you must know that what you're talking about, Systematic Desensitisation, is usually done very slowly, with the help of a therapist. Pushing yourself too hard, or taking on more than you're ready for, can cause a relapse or make the condition worse. I've sent the list of therapists again, just in case. Please contact a therapist before undertaking any of this yourself. Please. For your own sake.


Draco frowned to himself. He absent-mindedly gave Iris' owl another treat before shutting the window. For one thing, he didn't have enough money to regularly see a therapist, if he knew he could stay with Potter, that would be different. That was the other problem, he didn't have enough time, just a month, a week of which he had already wasted.

He dropped himself onto the couch. There were papers spread out everywhere from Iris' first letter and he shoved them into a single messy pile out of the way. Draco stretched back against the cushions, staring up at the ceiling. When Potter kicked him out, would he even want to be better? Would it be better to coast, enjoy what he had and fall back into the shit once it was all inevitably over? No. He sighed and unrolled the papers. He rather liked being in control of his life.

He crumpled Iris' letter into a ball and threw it at the tv. It bounced off and rolled under the coffee table.

He read about systematic desensitisation. How he could use visualisation exercises to imagine things that caused him to occlude while staying relaxed. Slowly, over time, it would rob the experiences of their fear so he wouldn't occlude when similar things happened.

Draco ate the sandwich he had picked up at the convenience store, after removing the wilted lettuce and a slice of hot house tomato that was so pale it was almost white. All in all, he wasn't sure where he could start. There was no such thing as the least terrifying moment with Aunt Bellatrix. They were all equally soul shattering. Then again...

He tapped his fingers on the stack of slightly curled paper. He didn't need to worry about Bellatrix since the crazy fuck was dead and the manor was gone. He needed to focus on the things that affected him now, like Vince's mum, Marian Crabbe. He hardly knew her after all. There was no reason to be afraid of occluding around her, he had only seen her a few times- at the manor- during the war -when she came with her husband. Draco blinked. That was why he had reacted to her. He hadn't even remembered until now.

He could start there.

Draco woke with a start, sitting bolt upright on the couch, papers drifting off his chest and lap onto the floor. The room was dark. Draco sat perfectly still, holding his breath as he listened for whatever had woke him. He carefully eased his wand out with one hand.

There was a muffled thump from bedroom followed by an equally muffled swear as Potter apparently tripped over his own feet.

Draco breathed out and put his wand away. He must have heard Potter apparate back in. He stretched his arms overhead and grimaced as something in his back popped. More paper slipped gently to the floor at his movement.

Draco gathered all up what the ones he could feel and rearrange them somewhat into a more orderly manner and set the pile next to his first earlier pile. He made his way over to the light switch, navigating by shadows and memory. He put his finger on the switch and then paused as the bedroom door slowly eased open with a faintest of creaks.

A wicked grin crept onto Draco's face as he listened for the careful shuffling footsteps to follow and then flipped the light on.

Potter startled, his shoulder bouncing off the wall, “Fucking fuck!” He glared over at Draco, “Why the fuck are you still awake!?”

“I was asleep. Some lunatic was creeping about and woke me up,” Draco said, still entirely too pleased with himself.

Potter huffed in annoyance, the tension slowly leaving his shoulder as he put away a wand Draco hadn't even seen him draw, “I just got back,” Potter said.

“Obviously,” Draco rolled his eyes.

Potter started to tense up again like he expected Draco to pick up the argument they had had before Potter left for his traumatising murder job.

Draco had to stop himself from rolling his eyes again or sneering which is what he wanted to do, thank you very much. Instead, he said, “I'm hungry.”

“What?” Potter's brow furrowed.

Draco pulled on his shoes, “I think I'll go to that twenty-four hour kabab place down the street.”

Potter just stared at him like he had gone mad. Which was rude.

“Would you like to join me?” Draco asked archly, raising one eyebrow.

“I-” Potter scrubbed the back of his neck and sighed, “Sure.”

“Lunch and tea with Andromeda and Teddy, and then dinner at the Burrow,” Potter said, “That's how I always spend my saturdays.”

Draco was frowning, “And sunday you go back to work. Who works on a sunday?”

“I do. Sunday through thursday. You think criminals take weekends off?” Potter said sharply, handing Draco the last plate to dry.

Draco stacked the plates and reluctantly unseated himself from the counter to put the whole lot away, saying,“I think heroes-of-the-wizarding-world ought to be able to take any time they like off. Otherwise, what's the point?”

Potter made a face at him.

“Fine. So you'll be gone all day. Lovely to know,” Draco said flatly, putting the plates away.

“You could come along.”

Draco froze. He carefully tightened his grip on the glass in his hand so he wouldn't drop it and then placed it on the shelf and closed the cabinet. “I'm not going to the Weasley's den,” he said.

“It's a Burrow, the Burrow, technically,” Potter corrected him.

Draco snorted. He stayed where he was, staring down at the grey formica counter top. He wasn't very good at standing his ground where Potter was concerned but not looking at him helped.

“What about just seeing Andromeda and Teddy then?” Potter asked, “They're your family too.”

Draco made a face, “Technically. I've never spoken to them. My mother isn't on good terms with her sister, as far as I'm aware.”

“Aunt. She's your aunt,” Potter said. The floor creaked softly as he walked over, slipping an arm around Draco's waist.

Draco could feel the heat of him. He quickly shrugged Potter off and stepped out of the kitchen and out of reach.

Potter sighed, scrubbing his hand through his hair in frustration, “Why is it you can touch me however you like but as soon as I try to touch you, you act like you're being tortured?”

Draco frowned at him. Annoyed that he didn't know why, annoyed that Potter had noticed, and very annoyed that Potter kept doing it anyway.

“Fine!” Potter threw up his hands. He huffed and rubbed his chin, turning to the bathroom, “I need to shave.”

Draco blinked, “Oh. Just a moment.”

“What now?” Potter put his hands on his hips.

He went round the couch and grabbed the trousers he had worn yesterday, fishing around the pocket and retrieving the black velvet roll he had picked up from Gringotts. “Here,” he said, holding it out to Potter.

Potter took it with a sigh and slowly unrolled the fine cloth, “What is it?” He finished undoing it, revealing a folded straight razor, shining like new, the gilt silver handle of the blade was intricately engraved with vines and long intertwined serpents. Potter very carefully unfolded it, turning the blade so it caught the light. “This is....” he looked up at Draco, “Am I meant to use this? I've never used a straight razor before. I feel like I'm liable to cut my own throat just trying.”

Draco shook his head, “Don't be ridiculous. It's charmed to only cut hair.” he grasped the blade and slid it across his open palm.

Potter flinched, pulling the razor back even as Draco's skin was utterly untouched by anything other than a faint white pressure line.

“It's as good as a shaving charm but you can still enjoy shaving manually, like the arsehole you are,” Draco said.

“Why does shaving manually make me an arsehole?” Potter said in exasperation.

Draco smirked faintly, “It doesn't. You just are an arsehole and it's important to remind you regularly.”

“Mustn't get a big head,” Potter said mockingly.

“Also,” Draco added, “I just wanted to call you an arsehole.”

Potter fought down a grin and shoved Draco's shoulder lightly, “How about I shave off your eyebrows while you're sleeping?”

Draco raised an eyebrow challengingly, “One, I don't sleep. Two, you wouldn't.”

“I might,” Potter said with an unsettling little grin, turning the straight razor this way and that so it glinted ominously.

“You're the one who'll have to look at me until they grow back in,” Draco said, trying not to sound defensive.

Potter's grin grew, “True. I might end up laughing so much I can't eat and die of starvation.”

Draco shoved Potter's shoulder back trying not to grin himself, “Fuck off.”

“I've still never used a straight razor,” Potter said.

“It's not exactly alchemy is it?” Draco said, he hesitated and then said, “Come on then. I'll show you.”

He led the way to the bathroom and Potter followed dutifully behind with a rueful smile. The bathroom lights flickered gently for a moment. Draco picked up Potter's weird little can of muggle foam and pressed the top, expressing a dollop of strange gel. He frowned at it and smeared it between his fingers, surprised to see it foam into a rich lather much nicer than anything Draco had ever seen conjured or brewed. It smelled faintly of cedar.

Potter pushed his glasses up and then quickly dropped his arms out the way as Draco stepped closer.

He spread the lather over Potter's cheeks and chin, down his neck where he could briefly feel the flicker of a pulse. When he looked up, Potter was watching him intently and Draco shivered.

He washed his hands, leaving the sink on a slow trickle as he took Potter by the shoulders, pulling his closer to the sink and turning him at an angle, “Here, you can watch in the mirror this way.”

Potter glanced over at his reflection and then back at Draco with a quiet Mhmm of acknowledgement.

Draco took the straight razor from Potter's hand and carefully held it the way he remembered his grandfather holding it when he shaved. He started at the top of the cheeks, caring care to go slow at first, getting a feel for how to do it.

He didn't have many memories of his grandfather Abraxas, he died when Draco was six, but he quite often watched him shave, mesmerized by the smooth confident strokes he took with the sharp blade. It was only after Draco cut his hand quite badly on the razor, playing with it out or curiosity, that the charm to keep it from cutting anything but hair was put onto it.

Grandfather hadn't allowed his parents to heal the cut. He had said that some things were best suffered through to better learn not to be foolish in the future. He still had the scar, a faint white line across his pale skin.

Draco ran the razor under the sink, foam sinking down the drain and leaving the blade shining and clean again. Potter pressed his lips together and Draco carefully shaved the top of his lip, his chin. It made a faint scritch noise as Draco drew the blade across Potter's stubble. He rinsed the razor again. He took Potter's chin and tilted it up, to shave his neck, with more care and gentle touches than was necessary.

“I think that's finished,” Draco said quietly.

Potter was watching him with his piercing green eyes.

Draco turned away, carefully washing the blade entirety clean, running his fingers over the smooth steel before drying and closing it. He set the straight razor beside the sink.

Potter leaned forward, his breath ghosting against Draco's ear as he reached behind him for a towel and used it to dry his face, running his hands over his cheeks appreciatively. “You're right, I don't think I've had a better shave.”

“Of course. I was doing it,” Draco said.

“I wasn't really paying attention, so I don't think I can manage myself. You'll have to show me again tomorrow?” Potter said, biting his lip.

Draco narrowed his eyes.

“Please?” Potter said trying to hide a smile.

Draco sighed and said grudgingly, “If I must.” He did his best to ignore the part of himself that would have gladly begged to be able to do it even once more.

Potter wavered forward and then pulled himself back, licking his lips, “Can I kiss you?”

Draco frowned faintly, “Is this about what you said earlier?” he asked suspiciously.

“Yeah,” Potter said, and then quickly corrected, “err, No,” his brow furrowed and he conceded with a grimace, “...Yes.”

Draco sighed, “You are such an arsehole,” and kissed him, slipping his hands in Potter's hair.

Potter groaned into the kiss, reaching out and catching Draco's hips like he might fall if he didn't.

Draco leaned back against the edge of the sink, pulled on Potter's hair because he could, bit his upper lip.

And Potter let him, pushed closer even, and kissed him until they were both flushed and hard and wanting.

“I'll go with you to Andromeda's,” Draco said impulsively as he broke the kiss.

“Yeah?” Potter grinned. He tilted his head to the side, “We could be late?” he suggested hopefully.

Draco shook his head, “No. I have to find something appropriate to wear and spell it to fit.”

Potter groaned and stepped back slightly. He rested his forehead on Draco's shoulder for a second then dragged himself away, “Yeah, alright.”

“And I reserve the right to leave whenever I like,” Draco added.

Potter nodded. He grabbed the door as he was about to step out and paused, “Not even a mutual wank?”

Draco was tempted. Very tempted. But he needed time because he was absolutely and utterly terrified and regretted ever opening his mouth to say he would go. He shook his head and went to get ready.

Chapter Text

There wasn't room to pace in his little laboratory.

He opened his trunk, going to down the ladder into the room sized closet below where he could pace six steps before having to turn. It wasn't ideal. He normally liked to pace in large meandering circles, touching furniture as he passed. Potter's living area would have been perfect but he didn't want Potter to see him pacing. So he paced his six steps, letting his right hand caress along the racks and racks of clothing hung around him, and pretending he was pacing a very narrow oval rather than a line.

The thing was... he knew Andromeda bore a resemblance to Bellatrix, he had seen photos of the Black sisters. It was just that he had conveniently forgotten that there was someone living in the world who carried Bellatrix's likeness that could also become a part of his life.

It was more than he anticipated dealing with so soon. It was certainly more than imagining Crabbe's mum dressed as a clown and hitting herself in the face with a pie, which he had found very relaxing.

If he could get through it, it might be helpful. On the other hand- he remembered Iris' crumpled note with a frown- it could just as easily backfire and leave him an utter mess. More of an utter mess.

He tried to reassure himself that he could always leave. At any time, really. So it would be fine.

Draco picked out a simple button down in pale blue that picked out the blue tones in his eyes. He hesitated, Andromeda wasn't on good terms with his Mother so blue might not be... then again the grey of his Father's eyes would do him no favours. He pulled off the tee shirt he had stolen from Potter and carefully buttoned on the new shirt. All the while, he did his best to ignore the uneasy ache in his gut.

Trousers, he grabbed black first then reconsidered and picked a dark grey. In general, he didn't like to wear too much black out in wizarding public, not because of what he thought, but what others might.

He had to tighten the trousers, to keep them on his hips. He tightened the shirt in the shoulders. He could hardly remember the man, the boy, who had once fit all these clothes; who thought he would even need so many. He grabbed a pair of shoes and climbed back up out of his trunk, going straight to the bathroom.

Draco closed the door and locked it with the little muggle lock, used his wand to cast a silencing charm and then threw up.

The tight ache in his stomach eased for the moment.

He flushed the toilet and took down the silencing charm. Draco looked in the mirror, his expression looked back at him, exhausted and shadowed by lack of sleep. He combed his hair with damp fingers, cast ironing charms on his clothing and put a minor glamour on so he'd look tired rather than half dead. He nervously tugged at the blue rubber band at his wrist and cast a notice-me-not spell on it and a silencing spell. The light bulb above him flickered restlessly at every use of magic.

“Almost ready?” Potter asked through the door.

“Almost,” Draco agreed, grabbed his toothbrush and doing his best to get the taste of sick out of his mouth. Potter's horridly strong toothpaste helped on that account. Draco opened the bathroom door and looked as unimpressed as he could, which was quite.

Potter was wearing jeans and a tee shirt. Shocking.

“You don't really need to do-” Potter gestured to all of Draco, “all that. It's just lunch. I go every week.”

And I don't, Draco would have said but his mouth was full of toothbrush so he settled on raising a single eyebrow.

Potter's brow furrowed, “Also, why do you use a toothbrush? You shave with a charm but don't use a mouth cleaning charm?”

Draco spit and rinsed his mouth, dropping his toothbrush back in the cup beside Potters, “Because, Potter, the mouth cleaning charm only comes in one flavour, revolting vaguely-sort-of-mint. It's wretched.”

Potter grimaced, “Yeah. I know what you mean. I only use it when I'm running late.”

“Shall we?” Draco said stiffly holding out his arm for a side-along.

“Oh, right,” Potter stepped over and grabbed onto his biceps, “Here we go.”

Draco closed his eyes as he was yanked along by the apparition, quickly blinking them open as his feet hit the ground. His stomach was roiling again, this time at least it had more of a reason other than pants-wetting-anxiety.

“I really wish I'd had time to get a gift of some kind,” Draco said, staring up at a small two story home painted in a pale green with cream trim.

“You don't need any of that,” Potter said heading for the front door.

Draco wrinkled his nose, purposefully hanging back a few steps, “It's the proper way of things.”

“Andromeda isn't into all that pureblood-y nonsense.”

“Pureblood is not an adjective, Potter,” Draco said drying, trying to not regard the door with too much suspicion.”

Potter shrugged, raised his hand to knock, “What do you expect when we quit english lessons at eleven?”

“You did maybe,” Draco sniffed, “I had six tutors every summer.”

Potter turned to look at him, “Six tutors? When did you get to go outside and play around?”

“Sunday,” Draco said quietly as footsteps approached, “and that's only because Mother insisted.”

“You know you can come in Harry,” Andromeda said as she pulled the door open. Her voice contained similarities to both her sisters but was turned strange by an easier, gentler tone.

Every line in Draco's body stiffened at the sight of her. He gripped his hands in front of himself, snapping the rubber band against his skin. His stomach ached.

He made himself look at her, searching for differences, the lighter hair, pulled back instead of left to go wild, gentle eyes. There were lines in her face and grey in her hair Draco had seen on his mother but never on Bellatrix. And then there was what he hadn't expected to see at all, surprise.

“You did owl ahead and ask if I could come, didn't you?” Draco hissed from behind Potter's shoulder. “You at least warned her?”

Potter licked his lips nervously, not meeting his eye, “Well...”

Draco shook his head taking a few steps backwards, “I'm leaving.”

“Come on, Malfoy!” Potter turned and grabbed hold of his arm.

Draco smiled brittlely in Andromeda's direction, “Sorry to have disturbed you.”

“It'll be fine,” Potter said, glancing back at Andromeda desperately, “Won't it?”

Andromeda pursed her lips into a thin line.

Draco pulled his arm free and snapped the rubber band against his skin.

From behind her, further in the house, a small child's tremulous voice called out, “Harry's here?”

“Yes,” Andromeda's said, hardly turning her head to send the words back, “He's brought a guest. Come in, both of you.” She used a pure mum tone and stepped into the house, leaving the door open.

Potter gestured for Draco to come inside looking hopeful.

Draco went with him, not because of Potter and his stupid smile but because Draco had never had it in him to resist that mum tone.

Andromeda was standing near the back of the immaculate living room, close to a brightly lit kitchen done mostly in white. A small child was standing behind her leg, his rumpled brown hair and blinking eyes spoke of someone who had just woken from a nap. He perked up immediately upon seeing Potter and ran over to hug his legs with an ecstatic squeal of happiness.

Potter grinned and scooped Teddy up high into the air before pulling him into a tight hug, “Wot'cher up to, Ted?”

As Draco watched, the three-year-old's hair went from messy brown to an even messier black, a perfect match for Potter's. He had to be a Metamorphmagus.

Draco felt instantly and overwhelmingly jealous. He kept it hidden since being visibly jealous of toddlers was simply not done.

“Come into the kitchen with me, Harry?” Andromeda said. She gestured to the small living room and told Draco, “Make yourself comfortable.”

The stepped into the kitchen, their voices falling to a distant hum that spoke of a muffliato spell.

Draco really wanted to leave.

He ran his hand over the back of a small worn couch as he walked over to a chimney big enough to floo through. Photos were arrayed all across the mantle. He barely glanced at them. The younger Andromeda looked, the more she resembled her sister.

Draco had managed to keep from disassociating too badly. He felt slightly above and away from himself, like he was watching everything happen through a pensive. He snapped the rubber band against his wrist. Anxiety was roiling under his skin and filling his stomach with acid. He felt nervous and uncomfortable and uneasy.

He moved over to the window. Space had been cleared for a play area and a small chest overflowing with toys was pushed into the corner. He knelt down, presumably to look at some of the toys, but found himself laying on the floor quite without meaning to.

It helped though, so he stayed.

Draco stared at the ceiling and studied the thin cracks in the white plaster. He looked for spider webs but there were none. The house seemed to be spotless which was a feat considering Andromeda was raising a small child by herself. The solid, hardness of the floor helped a great deal.

He turned his head at the padding of bare feet as Teddy approached, his small brow furrowed with suspicion. His hair had gone back to brown. He veered widely, to walk close to the wall, away from Draco.

“Hello, small child,” Draco said flatly, “to what far away lands do you travel?”

He turned his head as Teddy circled him, up around Draco's head, along the window and then along towards the door until he disappeared behind the back of the couch.

“Alas, he has gone,” Draco said.

“Not gone,” Teddy said, peeking out from the other end of the couch, looking mildly offended in addition to suspicious.

“The great hero returns,” Draco said.

Teddy huffed, stepping closer, “I'm not a hero,” he said like it was something he'd had to explain far too often as far as he was concerned.

“Oh,” Draco said and asked, “What are you then?”

“A dragon,” he said with a nod and defiant look.

“I was a dragon once,” Draco said absently.

Teddy stepped closer, “Why? Were you attacked? Is that why you're on the floor?”

Draco nodded solemnly, “Yes, that's it precisely.”

Teddy nodded in total agreement he walked over to his toy chest and pushed it open, “Are you dead?” he asked, grabbing a stuffed rabbit and a dragon figurine that flapped its wings as he picked it up.

Draco squinted his eyes in thought, “I don't think so. I might be something in-between.”

Teddy frowned at this answer, setting up the two toys side by side next to Draco and went back for more, which he also set next to the first two in the start of a line, “Only ghosts are in-between. You're not a ghost. My parents are dead, that means they're not here anymore,” he said matter-of-factly. “You're here so you're not dead.”

“You're very right,” Draco said.

Teddy seemed entirely aware of this fact already. He went on, “You can pretend to be dead though.”

“Okay,” Draco said, watching as the line of toys started to curl around his head.

“You can't move,” Teddy ordered, “We'll all stand around and be sad and then bury you.”

“Teddy?” Andromeda called from the kitchen.

Teddy was too absorbed by gathering the mourners to answer back.

Draco was gathering his strength to call back when Andromeda burst from the kitchen, her expression told a story of the worst kind.

“Teddy?!” She called more frantically.

Draco raised an arm, “He's here.”

Andromeda spun around, leaning over the back of the couch so she could see them both. “There you are! What have I told you about wandering off?” She put a hand over her heart, relief flooding her expression.

“I'm busy, Mémé!” Teddy said impatiently.

Draco knew, without a doubt, that for a second she thought Draco had done something to Teddy. He pretended very very hard that it didn't matter. It was just one more amongst so many other tiny things that didn't matter and didn't hurt at all.

“No moving!” Teddy ordered, winding the circle of toys around his other side.

Draco wrapped his arms around his middle, “Sorry.”

“What are you doing?” Andromeda asked.

Potter came in from the kitchen to stand next Andromeda. He blinked at the sight and hazarded, “Are you dead?”

“It's pretend,” Teddy said, in case they couldn't work out that little fact.

Draco closed his eyes and snapped the rubber band against his wrist.

“I'm not sure this sort of game is appropriate,” Andromeda said in a cool voice that was very nearly his mothers when she was trying to scold him in polite company.

Draco almost shrugged then remembered he wasn't supposed to move, “I was just lying here.”

“He was attacked by a knight! He's a dragon like me,” Teddy said. His tone took on a frown, “You did it! You attacked the dragon!”

Draco cracked open an eye to see Teddy pointing at Potter.

Potter tried to protest, “I didn't-”

“You did!” Teddy said, “You're the hero! You fight dragons! Uncle Ron told me!”

Potter groaned.

Draco smirked faintly, “You're right. It was him.”

Teddy whipped around with to look at Draco with astonishment and delight.

Draco went on in a sad, poor me voice, “He has slain me, the great hero slew me.”

“I was right!” Teddy crowed. Then he ran to his toy box, digging out the last of his toys and setting them near Draco's knee. “Okay! Okay! Now we say sorry you're dead.” He shifted and looked down at Draco with pho-solemnity, “Sorry you died.” He looked over at Andromeda and Potter, “You have to do it too!”

Andromeda's mouth pinched in a disapproving frown, “My condolences.”

Potter tucked his hand into his pockets and rocked back on his heels, “Err, sorry?”

“Now what?” Draco asked.

Teddy's brow furrowed in deep thought, “Now you have to be buried...Oh! I know!” He ran back behind the couch, the stomping of his feet leading to a door slamming open and just as quickly Teddy returned, trailing a somewhat threadbare rainbow coloured quilt. He tried to toss it over Draco and did a rather awful job of it. He grabbed an edge and dragged it over Draco's face, knocking over half the mourners in the process, and seemed satisfied.

“Done!” Teddy said clapping his hands together, “Now we get cake!”

Draco tugged the blanket down, “I'm done pretending to be dead then?”

“Yes,” Teddy nodded, “and we get cake.”

Andromeda sighed, “You may have a biscuit, after lunch.”

“After someone gets buried there's cake!” Teddy insisted, on the verge of stomping to better express his displeasure.

“Teddy,” Andromeda said firmly, “There will be none of that.”

“I'm only pretend dead,” Draco said, “So that means the cake must be pretend as well.”

Teddy crossed his arms over his chest, his nose and mouth all squishing into unhappiness, “I want real cake!”

“Aw come on, Ted, “Potter said as he came around the couch, picking Teddy up under the arms and tossing him into the air with practised ease followed by some swirling and twirling around that had the boy breathless with laughter and begging for more. Potter put him on his shoulders and they zipped around the room, pretending to fly, disappearing into the kitchen and beyond. A distant door slamming open suggested they had escaped into the wilds of the backyard.

Andromeda smiled after them, wincing slightly at the door banging open, “Harry is so good with him.”

“Good at distracting him maybe,” Draco said, “He's not going to learn to deal with disappointment like that.”

“Unfortunately, that's my job,” Andromeda said, with a hint of amusement in her voice.

Draco watched as all the toys around him flew up and went back into the toybox one by one. The last to go back where it belonged was the brightly coloured quilt which folded itself before returning to Teddy's bedroom.

“Would you like to get off the floor?” Andromeda asked, still sounding amused.

“Not particularly,” Draco replied quietly.

Andromeda huffed, the amusement in her voice only growing, “Cissy- Narcissa used to lie on the floor when she was upset. Our parents didn't allow outbursts after four or five so Narcissa would just collapse on the floor when she was unhappy, usually in a door or hallway where she could most be a nuisance. After she started school she wasn't allowed to do that anymore either so she would just lock herself in her room...

Andromeda patted the back of the couch absently, “Will you be joining us for lunch?”

“Do you want me to?” Draco asked, daring to look at her.

Andromeda considered him thoughtfully, with a faint smile on her face, “I think so. I was afraid you would have taken after Lucius but I think I was wrong on that account.”

Draco managed to hold her gaze, “No, there's some of him in me as well. My Father wasn't all bad. No one is.”

“Even Voldemort?” She asked coldly.

There was Bellatrix.

Draco's throat went tight and he tore his eyes away, a shudder running through him. Draco closed his eyes, finding that answering at least, was easier when he wasn't fully present in himself, “He was powerful, power isn't inherently evil, Dumbledore and Potter are powerful. And he was charismatic once, driven, intelligent... there are a lot of things that could be considered admirable once removed from the person's terrible ideology.”

He snapped the rubber band against his wrist, trying to focus on the floor, digging into his hips, making his lower back ache, pulling himself out of the occlusion with a few ragged deep breaths. He felt like he might be sick again.

“Are you defending him, to me, in this house?” Andromeda said.

“No.” Draco said quietly, “Just answering the question. But I see you didn't want an answer, so I apologize.” He took a deep breath, swallowing down the acid in the back of his throat, and said truthfully, “He was poison and bile and I would shit on his grave if he had one.”

Draco kept his eyes closed as an interminable silence stretched out between them.

“Do join us for lunch,” Andromeda said.

Draco dragged his eyes open, “I'm afraid don't have an appetite.”

There was another stretch of silence.

Andromeda said, “You look terribly pale. I'll make you some broth and dry toast.”

Draco pushed himself up on his elbow, watching her retreating back in astonishment.

True to her word, while Potter and Teddy ate sandwiches, he had a bowl of broth and dry toast which he managed to eat about half of before his stomach informed him, quite emphatically, that he wouldn't be having any more unless he wanted to have none at all.

He spent rest of the day with Teddy, sitting on the floor with his back to the couch where Andromeda and Potter sat talking about Teddy, work, friends and family. Draco didn't listen in, he was too busy being a dragon with Teddy.

After tea, Potter took Teddy out into the back garden to play on his training broom. It could only go three feet off the ground and Teddy was only allowed to use it while Potter was there. Draco went with them.

He might find Potter annoying, more than a little frustrating and have the sort of hair that had prompted Draco to start secretly mixing conditioner into Potter's shampoo bottle, but Draco had never occluded around him. As much as he hated to admit it, and he never would say it aloud, he felt safe around Potter.

As they were getting ready to leave, Potter and Andromeda got to talking leaving Draco with Teddy.

Draco knelt down next to him.

“Um...” Teddy tucked his hands behind his back and scuffed his foot against the floor, “...What's your name again?”

“I am remiss in my duties,” Draco said gravely, “I never properly introduced myself. I am Draco,” he held out his hand, “I'm glad to have met you, Teddy.”

Teddy shook his hand. “Draco?” his brow furrowed.

“There's a constellation, a string of stars in the sky that they call Draco, I'm named after that,” Draco said.

“Mémé told me that all the Black family are named after stars,” Teddy said, “She was too. Are you a Black?”

Draco smiled faintly, “My mother was. My mother is your Mémé's sister. We're cousins, sort of.”

Teddy blinked and then his eyes grew wide, “We're family?” he said quietly.

Draco nodded.

“Oh...” Teddy said, he leaned in close to whisper, “I wish I was named after a star.”

“You do?” Draco asked.

Teddy nodded emphatically, “Or after a dragon. I'm named after my Pépé. I never met him.”

Draco thought for a moment, “Teddy is short for Edward isn't it?”

Teddy nodded, making a bit of a sour face.

“Did you know there were eleven kings of england named Edward?” Draco said.

“Kings?” Teddy tilted his head slightly, “Like with crowns and fancy robes?”

Draco nodded, “Edwards are so good at being kings there were more Edwards than any other king name.”

“If I were a king, would I get to tell people what to do?” Teddy asked looking hopeful.

“Yes.” Draco grinned wickedly, “Yes, you would. No one can say no to a king after all.”

“Err, ready to go, Malfoy?” Potter asked.

Before he could stand, Teddy leaned up, hugging Draco round the neck, his hair turning a fine flaxen white-blond, “Come visit again. I wanna play some more.”

“I'd like that,” Draco said hugging him back before he stood back up. He had hardly got his wits about him when he was hugged again by Andromeda, it was brief and stiff as a hug can be.

“You may come visit whenever you like. Teddy will be glad of it,” she said, “and I'd like to get to know you, properly.”

Draco nodded silently and followed Potter outside.

“Are you sure you don't want to come to the Burrow?” Potter asked after the door closed behind them.

Draco was shocked to find he wanted to say yes, only because the prospect of going back to an empty apartment was almost too much to bear. Being surrounded by hostile Weasels would be no better though. He shook his head.

“Get some rest when you get back,” Potter said, “You look knackered.”

“You have a way with words, Potter, that would make all the girls swoon,” Draco said flatly.

“Prat,” Potter said, reaching up and brushing his fingers across Draco's jaw.

Draco closed his eyes, leaning into the touch so Potter was cupping his cheek.

Potter stepped closer, the gravel crunching underfoot as he kissed Draco gently. “You really are tired,” Potter said softly, still close enough for his hair to brush Draco's forehead.

Draco pulled away with a half-hearted glare, “What do you mean by that?”

Potter shrugged, looking a little guilty, “You're... nicer? when you're tired.”

“Piss off,” Draco muttered.

Potter smiled, taking a step back, “It'll only be a few hours.”

“Good for you."

“I'll see you back home.” Potter took out his wand and with a loud crack, he was gone.

Draco stared at the space where Potter had once been for far too long. He forced himself to take out his own wand and apparated back to a dark empty apartment.

Chapter Text

Draco collected his little battery powered radio and left the apartment, padding down the stairs to the ground floor. He paused there, staring out the main door, flooding light across the scuffed green tiles. He looked down the other way, at the smaller door leading to the back of the building and the planter boxes, and let his feet carry him to it, leaning against the door and slipping outside when it was just barely wide enough.

There were six planters filled with dry brown soil dotted with the white knobbly little lumps that always seemed to be in Muggle plant containers. There were all sorts of plants, doing vaguely alright, drooping a little from a lack of water.

Draco cradled the radio in his hands as he tried to get the batteries in and then had to flip them about until he figured out how to make them match the tiny picture stamped in the plastic. He closed the back and pushed the switch up, the radio crackled to life with a hiss of static. He fussed with the dial on the top until he got a half decent station, too quiet but not staticy. He didn't recognize the music but he had trouble remembering a lot of muggle music, they just had so much of it.

The sound of the street was muffled in the little back alley and mixed comfortingly with the soft singing of the radio. There was a single bench set at the very back, the boards drooping, the white paint peeling off. Draco sat, the radio by his side, and set his hands on either side of him, picking at flaking paint with his fingertips. The sun was setting but a few stray rays managed to slip between the surrounding buildings drawing a stripe of light and warmth over his feet. Every time a breeze pushed through Draco closed his eyes, sinking into the cool feeling on his skin. Until it grew cold and the light had dwindled to twilight.

Draco carried the radio back inside, clasped between both hands close to his heart like a talisman. Right before heading up the stair he had the door behind him open and Draco glanced back to the see the old woman, sagging slightly as she carried a full watering can from her room. She used her shoulder to push the door open, walking backwards and saw Draco at the same time. He nodded to her and she nodded back with a friendly smile.

He made his way up to the third floor, letting himself back into Potter's apartment. It was still empty. Draco replaced the sound of the radio with the tv, sitting in the corner of the couch, pressed tight against the upholstered corner, blankets squished up on his other side, holding his pillow to his chest. He forced himself to focus on the talk show because he didn't trust his mind to wander when he felt so utterly fucked. It would only get him into trouble. Better not to think at all.

It was funny, and Draco smiled ruefully because it wasn't funny at all, that he had drank to stop dissociating and now he very nearly wanted to occulde just so he wouldn't have to think how much he wanted to drink. It was like a niggling itch in the back of his mind, a pushing constant thirst or hunger or want and it promised so much. It would take his anxiety. It would take his insomnia. It would take his nightmares. But it would take him as well. Drinking liked to promise a way to take control back but it was just another form of powerlessness. Powerless if he did, powerless if he didn't.

No different than the rest of his life.

Draco pulled the pillow up higher, resting his chin on it and staring blankly at the colours moving on the screen. He was watching through his eyelashes when Potter returned, his apparition muffled by the walls of his room. Draco turned his head when he heard Potter's door open.

“You're still up?” Potter said sounding both disappointed and relieved, “I thought you might be sleeping. I was worried I'd wake you up.”

“You could've just stayed in your room if you were that worried,” Draco muttered.

Potter sighed, “Molly always sends me home with leftovers.” He walked over, round the couch, a basket in his arms full of wrapped dishes. “Have you eaten since Andromeda's?”

Draco shook his head sullenly.

“Here,” Potter started setting out plates, sealed with preservation charms.

Draco leaned forward and collected all his papers into a pile and slid them under the couch, out of the way.

“What's all that?” Potter asked.

“Research,” Draco said shortly, looking at all the food. It looked perfect and smelled divine as Potter started fixing up a plate for Draco, setting it on his lap without asking. Draco wasn't hungry but knew he ought to be so he ate anyway in small methodical bites.

There was a pudding as well which Potter had seconds of, “I spent nearly an hour trying to talk Hermione around. She's still really... against you being here.”

“You're the only one daft enough to be excited about the idea,” Draco said nibbling on a bit of roast.

Potter rolled his eyes, “Ron's a bit more... honestly, he doesn't get it either, but he's trying to be good about it anyway.” He took a deep breath, “The thing about Hermione is, it'd really help if you apologised to her.”

Draco swirled his fork through silky mashed potatoes and gravy, spreading it out in zig-zags, “Fine.”

“Really?” Potter said with a breath of relief.

“I was cruel to Granger in school. It's not something I'm proud of anymore.”

Potter frowned slightly, “Anymore? You were proud of it?”

“Do you really think I wasn't at the time?” Draco put the half-eaten plate of food into the coffee table, “I was a stuck up little prick who parroted everything my father said. I was quite good at it and terribly proud.”

Potter was looking frustrated again.

Draco rather wished Potter would stop conveniently forgetting that he wasn't a good person.

Potter let the feelings ago with a heavy sigh and said jokingly, “You still are a stuck up little prick.”

Draco raised an eyebrow, “Are you referring to my attitude or my cock?”

Potter laughed, “Not your cock, I've seen that and it's not little.”

“Flattery will get you nothing,” Draco chided, trying not to smile.

“It's not flattery if it's true.”

“Touché,” Draco said mildly sinking back into his couch corner.

Potter fussed with his many plates, sealing them back up with preservation charms.

“Say it,” Draco sighed.

“What?” Potter looked over at him, blinking in surprise.

“Whatever it is you want to say.” Draco said, “You're fidgeting, Potter. That means you want to say something you think I won't like.”

Potter looked away, “With Hermione... the thing you really need to apologise for is what happened at the manor,” his throat bobbed as he swallowed hard, “I know you couldn't really do anything at the time but... if you could just say something, that you're sorry about what happened to her.”

Draco squeezed his eyes shut, fighting to keep his breathing even. “Right,” he managed.

“You should try to sleep and.. don't worry about it. There's a lot of time to sort things out,” He felt Potter brush his hair back before the weight on the couch shifted and Potter took all the plates to the kitchen.

Despite himself, despite trying not, Draco remembered that day in the manor. It had been a haze, a nearly constant state of dissociation as he desperately counted the days until he could leave and go back to school. What he was left with was a picture book memory, moments in time like muggle photos, no movement, almost no sound except his mother's voice. Smells, though, lingered in his minds-eye, the acrid stench of snake shit, the curdled milk and decaying flesh smell of Greyback, the faint smell of blood. Draco hadn't known what blood smelled like after it had sunk into the cracks between stone, seeped into the wood floors and stained rugs, now he would never be rid of that knowledge.

His first clear memory of that day, of that entire week, was Potter's eyes. They were so green and frightened but still flickering faintly with defiance. His father wanted him to identify Potter as Potter, his father wanted to be redeemed. The first thought Draco had was that he would have done anything to never see the Dark Lord again, much less call him on purpose.

Beyond that, and his second thought, clearer and heavier than anything he had ever felt in his life, was the abrupt realization that he couldn't live in a world without Harry Potter. That knowledge nestled like a thorn in his heart to slowly pierce him with every beat until he eventually died from it but Potter, Potter could not die.

Draco said he didn't know, because it was the only answer that would give Potter time. He walked back to his chair and knew that the lie he had just told was a death sentence. Him, his parents and everything, everything he had done so far to make sure they all survived was for naught.

He had no memories after that.

It was his first black out. He wasn't proud of them. It was cowardice, no matter what Iris said, but it had a single benefit; neither Bellatrix or the Dark Lord could look into his mind while he himself was so far away. Because of that, his lie was never discovered, although they were punished anyway. It wasn't as bad as if could have been.

So he could not apologise to Granger because he wasn't there. Not really. He had never asked what had happened, never read anything that said more than the bare facts. He knew the chandelier had been dropped and cut him, it allowed him to stay alone in his room most of the break, gave him a few more snapshot memories as his mother cared for him, staying by his bedside. Her quiet voice telling him how brave he was and spoke of a future what was brighter and better where they would be safe.

Draco pulled Potter's fluffy blankets up around his face, letting them soak up the silent tears he could not stop.

A future that was brighter and better.

And safe.

Draco was awake. Exhaustion flowed through him like liquid lead in his veins. The only reason to even bother closing his eyes was to change the texture of the darkness. And worst of all, when he hovered on that edge of sleepy exhaustion his mind wandered, like a fever dream, bringing up images of his favourite pub, Blackcraw, their happy hour specials, cheap whiskey in heavy glass tumblers, so many people you could hardly move for the press by the bar. He could even smell it. He swallowed, his mouth salivating like a dog after a bone.

Fuck he was so tired.

Draco sat up, snatching the blanket off himself in a fit of fury, wadding it up and throwing it across the room as hard as he could. He vigorously rubbed his hands over his face until he felt more alert, his skin hot.

Draco stood up, going round the couch and heading for the bathroom by faint moonlight. The bathroom door creaked faintly as he opened it and slipped inside, turning the light on once the door was shut. The tile was cold on his bare feet. His reflection gave him a baleful expression, the circles under his eyes caught the light and looked more like bruises than shadows.

He turned away, setting his wand by the sink. He pulling his shirt over his head, letting it crumple onto the floor, followed by his pyjama bottoms as he stepped into the shower. He didn't bother getting the water right, flipping it on, flinching through the first bitterly cold spray and letting it get as hot as he could stand it before balancing it out. His skin turned pink from the stinging heat. Draco put his head under the shower head, letting it run over his hair and face, rubbing his fingers over his eyes and temples. The heat of the water carried some of the weight with it, washing the lead from his back and into the little metal drain at his feet.

A gentle tap on the door made Draco lift his head.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” Potter asked, his voice muffled by the door and water.

Draco pushed his hair out of his eyes. Water streamed down his back and legs as he stepped out of the shower and crossed the tiles, leaving wet foot prints behind him. He paused for just a second by the mirror, taking his wand and casting an even stronger glamour over his skin so his bruises only looked like shadows and his ghostly skin looked its normal pallor.

“What are you even doing?” Potter asked with a stifled yawn.

Draco opened the door, “Showering, you fucking twat.”

Potter's eyes flicking down over Draco's body a split second before he could drag them back up. He licked his lips almost absently, looking at Draco's face through sheer, unnecessary, force of will. “...I see. Couldn't sleep again?”

Draco raised an eyebrow, “Excellent detective work, Auror Potter,” he said sarcastically. Cold air from outside the bath washed over him and he shivered.

Potter pointed vaguely back at his bedroom door, “I- I should-”

“Join me.” Draco said impulsively.

Potter breathed in sharply, his eyes growing hungry, “You sure?”

Draco liked how Potter looked at him, liked the primal need. It was simple and uncomplicated, making his skin feel more heated than the water ever could.

Draco nodded and held out his hand.

Potter's calloused fingers slid over Draco's palm as he stepped into the room.

Draco pushed the door slowly until it faintly clicked shut, the small sound seeming to filled the small space, even over the running shower.

“You can look, you know,” Draco said.

He could almost feel Potter's gaze as it traced its way down his body, along the line of his neck, sinking into his collarbones, he lingered over his chest with its faint scars only the barest shade paler than his skin.

“Is touching allowed as well?” Potter asked.

“I suppose,” Draco said, pushing off the door and stepping close. He caught Potter's hand as it rose and covered it with his own, guiding Potter's fingers over his chest, over the long crisscrossing lines. He knew each and every one, traced them over and over and over again with his own fingers during the hundreds of thousands of endless sleepless nights he had had since the war. “You must have seen them already,” Draco said, “when you first brought me here and stripped me down like a creep.”

“You smelled like an ashtray filled with cheap whiskey. I was tempted to just leave you on on the floor,” Potter said, his eyes following the path of their hands.

“I wouldn't have blamed you.”

Potter seemed almost mesmerized by the scars, “You almost can't see them.”

Draco shivered again, not from the cold this time, “Dintany prevented the worst of it. Curse scars never completely heal.”

Potter looked up at him, “I'm so-”

“Don't.” Draco cut him off firmly, “I don't want your apologies.”

Potter tried to pull his hand away and Draco tightened his grip.

“They mean something to me,” Draco said, “You don't get to take that away to make yourself feel better.”

“What do they mean to you?” Potter asked his brow furrowing.

Draco let go of his hand, reaching down and grabbing the hem of Potter's shirt, “Maybe I'll tell you someday,” he said absently, pulling the baggy tee shirt over Potter's head and catching his glasses before they were pulled off as well.

“Don't drop-”

Draco dropped his shirt on the floor.

Potter sighed, “Really?”

Draco smirked and set Potter's glasses neatly beside the sink. He grabbed hold of Potter's arm and pushed him back to the small shower, half expecting him to pull free at any moment. He didn't, he also didn't chuck his pants, letting himself be submerged under the shower spray in order to be as annoyed with Draco as possible. He looked it too and Draco laughed, tired enough to find even the smallest thing funny.

“What are you so pleased about?” Potter groused, his hair turning impossibly darker, pressing flat and slick as the water soaked in.

“Well...I would have done the same thing.” Draco took his time to look over Potter's body, it was wiry and lean. In Draco's mind Potter seemed more muscular, like a caricature of his own publicity image. Maybe it was the way he carried himself, like someone who had seen the worst and kept going, the defiance of his very being making him seem bigger and stronger.

Potter pushed his hair back, splashing Draco.

Draco shivered and stepped closer to Potter to get under the water and warm his skin. Potter had scars of his own, most of them small or fading, from his auror work likely, but he had a large curse scar in the centre of his chest that had bleached his bronze skin pink-white in the shape of a starburst. He pressed his fingertips to the paler skin and dragged them down, “Does it have any feeling?”

“No,” Potter said, “Maybe someday I tell you about it.”

Draco smirked briefly, slipping his hand over and tweaking Potter's nipple so he gasped, “Felt that.”

“Bastard,” Potter laughed. He wrapped one hand around Draco's, the other slipped around neck, tilting his head up to kiss Draco.

Potter lips were wet with tap water, mixing into the taste of him. Draco stepped closer, slotting their bodies together, twitching against him and feeling Potter respond in kind. He was still wearing the damned boxers, soaked through and clinging to his hips. Draco slipped his thumb under the waistband and Potter pulled away, the expression on his face looked uncertain.

“It's, err-” Potter bit his bottom lip, his eyes flicking up to Draco and away just as quickly, “It's been a while.”

“Don't care,” Draco said.

“And I- I might have never actually been with a bloke before,” Potter went on, “Not that I don't like them- I just, haven't-”

Draco sighed, “I watched you wank so I know you are aware of how that works. A handjob simple requires you to wank someone else, whilst they return the favour.”

Potter looked over Draco's face searching for... something.

“No one's keeping you here if you want to leave,” Draco said, his voice quiet.

“I don't want to leave,” Potter said hesitantly.

Draco said, “Trade places with me.”

They shuffled around one another and Draco turned his face back into the spray, leaning on hand against the wall in case his exhaustion led him to wobble. He shivered as the warmth of the water replaced the chill from standing outside it.

“Sorry,” Potter said, “I don't know why I- I just suddenly felt...”

“Are we feeling now?” Draco asked into the water.

Potter snorted, “Merlin you're an arse.”

Draco shivered as he felt Potter run a hand up his back, tracing the ridges of his spine with his fingers.

“Don't you ever get nervous?” Potter asked with an edge of resentfulness.

Draco turned back around, reaching out and taking Potter's hands before he could pull them back and leaned forward, “Always.”

Potter was searching his expression again

“Do you really think someone who survived a war, on the wrong side, and fell into drink immediately after, is in any way mentally fit?” Draco said.

“You always seem confident.”

Draco smirked faintly, “It's a skill.”

“Any tips?” Potter asked with faint smile.

Potter's hands had relaxed and Draco absently stroke his fingers across Potter's palms, “Grow up a Malfoy. Malfoy's aren't allowed to look anything other than confident and in control. It's an almost impossible habit to break.”

“I wasn't allowed to cry,” Potter said abruptly, looking a little startled by his own admission but he stubbornly went on, “They'd lock me in my cupboard if I started and bang on the door if they could still hear me.”

“Your life is garbage,” Draco said.

This shocked a laugh out of Potter, his eyes shining with amusement, “Says the- what did you call yourself-? A dumpster fire?”

“It takes one to know one,” Draco said archly.

Potter was smiling. “I suppose so,” he said, pulling his hands free and pushing his boxers off his hips, kicking them out onto the floor with a wet squelch.

Draco looked at him.

“Like what you see?” Potter asked with a fairly good imitation of bravado.

Draco skimmed the back of his finger across Potter's stomach, the muscles jumping as he traced past them into the V of his hips. “Yes,” He said, stopping his finger just as the tip brushed across black pubic hair. Draco pulled his eyes up to Potter's, “Are we continuing?”

Potter shuddered at his touch and leaned into Draco, his feet following after.

Draco caught hold of Potter's hip, keeping him close even as he shifted them a little further back. The shower head that had been sluicing down his back, fell over his shoulder and between the two of them.

Potter sucked in a breath somewhere between a gasp and a sigh as their cocks brushed. Draco smothered a groan in his throat as Potter took him in hand, running his fingers over his shaft, squeezing and giving an experimental stroke, tighter than Draco usually did himself, stealing the air from his lungs.

“That alright?” Potter asked, glancing up through eyelashes flecked with tiny droplets of water.

Draco answered by touching Potter's cock the same way, mimicking every motion and eliciting a breathy sigh that Draco felt all the way down to his toes.

“Closer,” Draco murmured, pulling Potter in, pressing their cocks together and wrapping his hand around both, stroking and rubbing together as the water ran between them. Potter's hand joined his, fumbling and rough.

Draco groaned, too late he bit his lip to try and muffle the sound. When Potter looked up Draco kissed him and then the rough stubble on his chin, the junction of his jaw and ear before kissing his lips again, closing his eyes in the face of so much happening all at once.

Kissing became gasping but unwilling or unable to move away from one another, Draco felt Potter's lips grazing his cheek, pressing brief open mouthed kisses to his chin and down his neck before dropping his forehead into the curve of Draco's neck.

Draco let go of Potter's hip to cradle his head, letting his fingers tangle into damp black hair. His whole body shuddered as pleasure swept through him and he came. His vision darkened and, for a brief moment, he was certain he was going to pass out. Potter wrapped a tight arm around him, holding him close as his whole body shuddered with his orgasm.

They didn't move, catching their breath, slowly pulling themselves back together. Potter lifted his head, letting the shower wash them clean and kissed Draco languidly.

Draco traced his fingers over the nape of Potter's neck, feeling relaxed for the first time since that morning.

Potter sighed, “I have to go to work in about four hours.”

“Yes,” Draco said with a faint smile, “this was terribly impractical, all things considered.”

Potter leaned forward, turning off the water behind Draco's back and taking his arm. He pulled Draco out of the shower onto a wet, cold floor, grabbing a towel and holding it out to Draco.

“Just use a drying charm,” Draco said.

Potter picked up Draco's wand and hesitated just long enough for Draco to gesture at him impatiently to get on with it.

Potter's drying charms were as brusque and overpowered as his cleaning charms, at least cast through a wand they were more controlled. Draco did not like to imagine what his hair would have ended up looking like if Potter had tried his hand at a wandless drying spell. Potter also bothered to dry the floor and the clothes scattered across it.

Draco pulled on his pyjama bottoms, taking his wand back while Potter messed about at the sink.

“Shit, I'm out of dreamless sleep,” Potter muttered as he looked through his meagre mess of a potions cabinet behind the mirror.

Draco picked up his and Potter's clothes, throwing the later at Potter's face, “Not worth it, even a diluted dose would leave you groggy in four hours time.”

Potter shut the cabinet and rolled his eyes as he pulled his boxers off his shoulder, “Not for me, for you, prat.” He managed to pull his pants on without falling over, a feat for which Draco was nearly tempted to applaud.

“I'm fine,” Draco lied with ease, “If you're done blocking the door?”

Potter sighed and opened the door, “I'll buy some tomorrow.”

“Go back to bed, Potter, I'm perfectly fine,” Draco frowned at him.

Potter blocked the doorway to steal a kiss and shook his head slightly, “Liar. You're still too nice.”

“Go to bed, Potter,” Draco repeated, just barely refraining from adding a please which would have only proved Potter's point.

Potter watched him, trying not to look concerned before returning to his room, not bothering to close the door behind him.

Draco retrieved his blanket and went back to the couch to try his hand at sleeping again. At the very least, at least he no longer felt like he was going to shatter into a million pieces. And he had some lovely new memories to entertain his mind with until the sun rose.

Chapter Text

Draco kept his breathing slow and even when he heard Potter wake early enough that the light had just begun creeping into the room. He heard Potter dress and slip into the bathroom almost quietly, he apparated from there once he was done, presumably not to wake Draco.

Draco stayed on the couch for minutes or hours until he finally gave up on the prospect of any sleep being had. He dragged himself off the couch, his body feeling like a sack of dead weight. His eyes stung and ached like there was grit in the air. It was so much kinder to leave them closed, but he was hungry.

Draco shoved two waffles in the toaster and while they were toasting splashed cold water on his face, pushed his hair back with damp fingers. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the waffles popped up. Once his heart rate was once again approaching something like normal, he dried his hands and grabbed the peanut butter. Draco slowly, meticulously filled every little waffle pocket with peanut butter and then put to waffles together like a sandwich. He stared at the cabinets blankly as he ate. He was still hungry when he finished but couldn't be fucked to do anything about it.

He dragged himself to the nearest cafe, getting a monstrosity with six shots of espresso and so much chocolate and caramel mixed in that the milk whimpered for mercy it was never given. It was perfect and awful and exactly what he needed to even bother trying to exist for the day. He nursed it through three chat shows before he turned the tv off and quite frankly couldn't recall what he had just watched.

With a bit of caffeine in his veins, Draco took another shower and actually cleaned himself this time. He took his time with the shampooing, spending a great deal of time with his face under the spray until the water started to get cold and forced him out. He found himself in front of the mirror, water dripping off his hair and down his chin.

Draco frowned at the mirror. He had put on a glamour, he was certain, two even; one before Andromeda's, one during last nights shower. He was... he was certain he had. His reflection looked grey and ghostly and he shuddered at the familiarity at how he looked in sixth year, near the end. Bathrooms and mirrors. He was cold.

Draco picked up his wand, briefly tempted to try removing what was left of the glamours but was too unnerved to follow through. He cast another one atop the rest, closing his eyes to focus and make absolutely certain the spell was right. He pulled his eyes open and looked.... fine, fine enough. At the very least he looked less damned. The light flickered overhead.

He couldn't bear the thought of putting on any of the wrinkled lumps of clothing he had dropped on the floor. He went to his room, shivering as the water dried on his skin, went down into his trunk and pulling on the first thing he found, pants, a black dress shirt, and pale grey slacks.

Draco grabbed hold of some robes as he stood there, not certain if they were meant to keep him upright or he simply craved the texture of the heavy fabrics. He squeezed them in his hand, trying to pull his thoughts together. No more tv. Couldn't read, couldn't focus to read. His eyes ached. He just wanted to go to sleep but he couldn't bring himself to try.

He picked up a few of the dirty clothes he had left on the floor of the trunk, forced himself back up the ladder. He retrieved his clothes from the bathroom and the drawer under the couch. He decided to get Potter's clothes too and do the laundry because why the fuck not.

He used Potter's linen basket to carry the whole mess into the kitchen and pulled open the little dual wash and dry machine under the corner of the counter. Draco leaned the basket against the bottom and shovelled everything into the wash or tried to. Somehow several trousers had become entangled like a cloth rat king, legs trying to knot together into a ball of utter annoyance. He pulled them apart one leg at a time, shoved them unceremoniously into the washer and just barely resisting the urge to lose his temper and throw a great sodding wobbler. Something small fell from a pocket, rolling across the floor with a papery sound. When Draco glanced over he saw a small wad of parchment unfurling on the tiles.

Draco grabbed the washing powder from the neighbouring cabinet and started the machine. He didn't bother getting back up. It was too much trouble. So he sat on the floor, scooting backwards until his back hit the cabinets and he could watch the laundry spin round and round through the little window. He shifted, spreading his legs and heard a little rustly sound. The crumpled parchment.

Draco leaned forward, snagging it with the tips of his fingers. Smoothing the wrinkles from the paper absent-mindedly. The ink had smudged slightly but it was still legible, a date, a time and place, nothing more. Today's date and the time- Draco twisted around to find the little clock Potter had hung next to the sink- soon.

Marian Crabbe. Draco's brow furrowed as he recalled vaguely, the meeting by the bank. At the time he had thought it was stupid- and it was stupid- but it also struck him as somehow hilarious at the same time. The washer would be going for ages and it wasn't as if he had anything else to do. He couldn't really think why not to meet the sad-sack club of whiners. He'd fit in well if nothing else.

Draco grabbed the countertop and pulled himself back upright, absent-mindedly finding his wand as he went and aparated as soon as he reached the couch. He landed on the edge of Diagon Alley where the shops began to bleed into a residential area before stopping abruptly in a blank brick wall. The shop on his note was a small tea shop and probably only used by the tenants that lived in the flats nearby. The storefront had two windows made of squares of leaded glass too thick to see anything through other than silhouettes, grey at the edges from only the barest sort of wipe down over the years.

Draco pushed open the door expecting squeaky hinges and a bell to chime but there were neither. Carpet sank under his feet, in the way of weak, sagging floorboards rather than deep piling. The tea room itself was only a little bigger than a house's front room, with a small fireplace ringed by an assortment of chairs from new to old and in all sorts of patterns and colours, the only thing they all shared was being terribly threadbare. There were two round tables set back from the fireplace, also sporting an eclectic assortment of wooden chairs set around them. Heavy maroon drapes hung alongside the windows, covered in ratty fabric pils and generous layer of dust.

There was an ancient woman sitting by the fire, an empty cup and plate set at her feet as she let out little wheezing snores in her sleep. The rest of the room's occupants were gathered around the table nearest the windows, Marion, an older Grandma sort of woman with her white hair pulled up in a messy bun, curls escaping every which way, and a middle-aged man in faded brown robes, a brown vest to go with his brown moustache and ring of brown hair on his balding head.

Marion rose when she spotted Draco, looking absolutely delighted, “You came after all! I was afraid you might not. You looked in such a state the last time I saw you.” She gestured to an empty chair beside the gran, “Sit, dear.”

Draco pulled out the chair and sat with care, his back ramrod straight.

While Draco was trying to decide what to do with his hands, Marion went through a small doorway into what was probably the kitchen.

The old woman leaned forward slightly, “Hello young man, I'm Augustus Fawley,” she said a sweet, trembling voice, “It's a bit of a masculine name, I know, my father was quite set on it before I was born and wouldn't be talked around after it turned out I was a lady,” she chuckled at her own story. “You can call me Aggy.”

Draco nodded, “A pleasure. I believe I met you once before, at one of my parent's parties.”

Aggy laughed and clapped her hands, “Oh, that was ages ago, wasn't it! You were such a little thing, so polite.”

Draco's first inclination was to say a jibe about how he was quite a good actor or how any child would behave rather than be on the other end of a lecture from Lucius Malfoy but he didn't. He smiled and nodded politely as his mindset shifted over from the whole of him, to the little compartmental part of him that was Draco Lucius Malfoy, heir, pureblood and scion of his house.

The middle-aged gentleman harrumphed through his bristly brown moustache, “I'm Jasper Burke. No connection to the store, mind you! He sniffed, his moustache wiggling, “It's good to see you in the flesh, my boy, been gone so long it could worry a person. We've got to be out and about, you know! Got to be seen!”

Marion bustled back out of the kitchen and dropped back into her chair with a huff, “I swear, the help these days,” she tutted.

Aggy nodded in agreement, “So disrespectful.”

Marion smiled pleasantly at Draco, “You've met Aggy and Jasper? I believe Robert will be joining us as well, a bit late but he always is.”

“Is Thomas not able to come again?” Aggy asked, sounding terribly disappointed in him.

“He's very busy, as you know, Aggy!” Jasper said in a bellow of general exuberance that Draco was beginning to suspect was just how he talked- all the time.

“And Eleanor?” Aggy went on, managing to both ignore and not ignore Jasper at the same time, a rare talent even amongst the upper crust.

Marion nodded thoughtfully, “Feeling a bit peaky apparently.”

“A shame! We won't be able to get much done,” Jasper said.

Marion tsked, “We're not going to get into that mess with a new guest. As I told you, I think he will be a good fit for our little club so we ought to get to know him better.”

Jasper wrinkled his nose and his moustache arched.

Aggy reached over to pat Draco's hand, “How have you been doing since the war? Your family was affected quite badly.”

“Living with muggles, didn't you say?” Marion added.

“Yes,” Draco nodded and went on carefully, “I was left with a small trust and it was cheaper, as well as safer, after the war to live in muggle london. I have been keeping to myself mostly.”

“Are you going to rejoin society, then?” Marion asked, folding her hands on the table with a faint smile.

Draco knew she meant pure-blooded society, of which there was very little left that could be recognized from when he was young. His brow furrowed faintly in confusion and he did his best to smooth the expression away, “While I would not be opposed,” he said slowly, “I highly doubt I would be welcome in any capacity.”

“Such a shame,” Aggy said looking distantly across the way, “I remember back when I was a girl, the parties we would have,” she smiled at her recollection, “ballrooms filled with lights and fairies, little dainties that looked like art and tasted like heaven itself and the dancing- I do so miss the dancing.”

“We held two banquets every year at the family home,” Marion said, nodded faintly.

Jasper said, “The Malfoy's solstice and equinox parties weren't just your average party or ball, they were events. I remember one year they had a moving ice sculpture of a dragon that was damn near the real thing! Big as a carriage!”

“There are hardly any dances to be had nowadays,” Aggy said.

“The Ministry still holds the same balls it has always had?” Draco hazarded, he could hardly imagine them not.

Jasper scoffed loudly.

“They're so very small compared how they ought to be,” Marion said, “They relied on donations and now all the old families have nothing left to give.”

“If they're even still around,” Aggy added.

Marion nodded, “Who knows what this new ministry has done with all the gold it has stolen from us, certainly not to preserve our heritage.”

They used it to rebuild what your families and beliefs destroyed, Draco thought, though he would never say it allowed. He felt his gut clench with growing anxiety. He gripped the edge of the table, determined not to waver or faint.

The blessed, divine, rattle of a tea tray brought the discussion to a halt as a young girl probably just out of Hogwarts directed a floating tray down onto the middle of the table.

“Can I get you anything else?” she asked in a tiny voice.

Marion's mouth pursed as she looked over the service, clearly displeased, and said coldly, “The rest of our order.”

The girl practically ran back to the kitchen, hands clutching her robes like a life-line.

Marion sighed and shook her head, “The young people these days.”

Draco leaned forward, running on deeply instilled habits, and an even more deeply ingrained sense of self-preservation, he began pouring the tea in the mismatched teacups and carefully passed them to the occupants of the table before filling a cup for himself.

“Such a lovely boy,” Aggy said, charming milk and cream into her cup before taking a small careful sip.

Jasper helped himself to a generous amount of sugar, “That's why I say we've got to be seen! Young men like yourself are a benefit to society, a good influence! Especially with all these muggle lovers about.”

Draco kept his expression still, adding sugar to his tea until it was sweet enough to make his teeth ache before sipping slowly, doing everything in his power to keep from having to look at any of them.

The door opened silently, soft footsteps crossed the carpet over to their table and pulled out a chair, “Hello, all. Sorry I'm late,” an older man said, so slight as to be nearly swallowed by his heavy woollen robes and cloak. His hair was mostly grey, with just a touch of faded brown lingering at his ears and neck and it had started to thin so much that it floated around his head like a wispy rain cloud.

“You finally made it, Robert,” Aggy scolded.

Marion waved a flippant hand, “We were just chatting, Aggy.”

Robert reached across the table, offer his hand to Draco in greeting before sitting. “I'm Robert. Nice you could make it,” he said with an almost musical lilt to his careful words.

Draco rose to take Robert's hand, “Pleased to meet you.”

Robert's hand was knobbly and dry, he took Draco's hand in a tight grip. Draco shook his hand firmly, loosening his grip, but Robert did not, only gripping tighter. Draco quickly searched Robert's expression but the older man only smiled when he caught Draco's eye before letting go and sitting down.

Draco sat. It took him a second to pull his chair up and another to remind himself to breathe.

There was something in his mind, something that was not him.

It hadn't even been subtle. If Draco had been expecting it he wouldn't have allowed the eye contact but- He clenched his jaw, feeling Robert slowly wriggling through his mind like an inky black slug. He was careful, Draco would give him that, so subtle most Occlumens wouldn't have noticed, but that extra care made him slow. Draco busied himself but drinking his tea, letting his head turn to follow whoever was talking without any conscious thought.

In his mind, Draco very carefully began removing all the dangerous things from Robert's reach like Potter and his apartment, the building, the entire last week and began caging the man in innocuous memories. Draco removed the sense of time from the last complex he had lived in. Robert wandered through Draco's memory of the tiny shit-hole apartment, wall covered with dully-gleaming empty bottles, the telly on so quiet it was just a murmur of noise to help ward off the fear and loneliness, curtains drawn so the only light in the room was grey and weak.

The server girl returned with a plate of sandwiches all crustless and cut into small triangles, “Here you are,” she said quietly, her voice tremoring on the edge of tears.

“These should have been served at the same time as the tea,” Marion said sharply, “I will be speaking with Rutha about your service today.”

“Sorry, M'am,” the girl said already backing away.

Draco let Robert wander into memories of bars, rowdy with noise, a line of empty shot glasses in front of him, surrounded by people and yet so alone the memory was silent. Those memories lead to the times he had been too drunk to get home, ending up on benches, curled in doorways, passed out in parks or gutters, throwing up in small cheap hotel rooms with sickly yellow lights.

“That's all,” Marion said impatiently.

The girl nodded and bolted for the curtained off kitchen.

“Here you go dear,” Marion said gently, pushing the plate of tiny sandwiches to Draco, “You're far too thin. You have to keep your strength up, you know.”

Draco nodded, “Thank you.” He took a tiny sandwich, he'd never liked these, the soft white bread always stuck in his teeth. He ate carefully and slowly, stopping occasionally to sip some tea. He gently directed Robert into his memory of detox at Mugos. Robert's liked that memory, lingering through what little Draco remembered of the week. Unfortunately, he followed the memory into the waiting room, where Harry would be coming.

“Robert,” Draco called out pointedly, cutting through the surrounding chatter, “Might I inquire of your family name?”

Robert blinked slowly as if half-sleep. He forced a faint polite smile, “Ah- well, yes... it's Yaxley. Cousins to the main bloodline.”

“I see,” Draco said politely as he dumped Robert from the hospital memory into one of him in his vault at Gringotts obsessively counting out his money and dividing it into one hundred and forty-four equal piles, enough to live on for twelve years and little reason to plan beyond that.

Draco turned to pretend to listen to Aggy talk about her two children.

“They were potion brokers,” she reached over and patted the back of Draco's hand, “Bought from the brewers, sold to the shops and made a good living.”

Marion tsked and nodded, having obviously heard this story before.

Robert began moving again, looking for another memory to nose through. Draco clenched his jaw and absent-mindedly led Robert into the memory of his tiny potion's lab, placing his books and bottles of ingredients on the shelves, setting up the little work counter with his cauldron and array of stirring rods, each put in their place with exacting precision.

“During the war they sold to the Dark Lord's side, he had the galleons for it. What would have been the point of dealing with a bunch of poor rebels? They wanted charity, bah” Aggy said derisively, “you can't live off that. Did the ministry want my darling girls to starve?”

“They would have us all starve!” Jasper said, banging the table for emphasis and making all the china rattle.

Robert flinched, his hold weakening on Draco's mind slightly. He seemed transfixed on the memory of Draco's yet unused potion's lab.

“It's obvious from the way they treat us!” Jasper went on with another enthusiastic bang on the table.

Everyone nodded. Draco nodded as well as he dropped his hands into his lap, tugging his wand out of his sleeve just enough to aim it under the table, and cast a spell to tip Robert's cup-

Robert shot to his feet with a startled yelp as hot tea splashed across his robes and trousers, his teacup clattering against the chair's leg before coming to rest upside-down on the dark carpet.

Draco closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly to hide how much it shook.


His mind was his own again.

Jasper took out his wand and cast a haphazard drying spell over Robert, apologising as he went, “Sorry! Got carried away!”

Draco picked up the last of his tiny horrible little sandwiches and took a bite, smirking faintly as he chewed. He was quite certain that he hated every single one of them with every fibre of his being. Them and anyone they called friend.

“Quite alright,” Robert said carefully, rearranging his robes and gingerly re-taking his seat.

Aggy gestured to the teapot and Draco refilled her cup for her, following it with a generous amount of milk, just as she had prepared it before, “Thank you, dear,” she said, giving him a smile, “now what was it we were talking about?”

Jasper grumbled something dismissively, still looking red in the face, from either embarrassment or overexertion of his outrage muscles.

“What is it you're doing now that you've returned to us, to our world?” Robert asked him.

Draco glanced up, fixing his eyes on Robert's left earlobe with all apparent fascination, “Potions. I was always quite good at them. I'm eager to see if I've retained my knack for them.”

Marion's eyebrows rose and were followed by a smile the likes of which nearly made Draco throw up in his mouth. “Is that so?” she said quietly, catching Aggy and then Jasper's eye meaningfully. Robert nodded in confirmation, looking pleased with himself.

“Yes,” Draco said, his expression and tone as flat as a millpond.

“It's really quite splendid, you coming here!” Jasper said and Draco was quite glad not to be sitting beside the man because he was certain he'd have received a hearty thump on the shoulder for his trouble.

Aggy reached over and squeezed the back of his hand, “We could use more bright, young people like yourself.”

“Do say you'll come next week as well,” Marion said.

Robert nodded, “We hardly know you, after all.”

As a shiver ran down Draco's spine. He gave them a polite smile and lied through his teeth, “Of course, I have enjoyed meeting all of you as well.”

“Wonderful,” Marion said with a little sigh of relief. She smiled brightly and glanced over the rest of the group, “Shall we call it a day? It's getting late.”

Before everyone had even finished nodded she got to her feet and marched back to the kitchen.

“Help me to my feet, would you dear?” Aggy said, bracing on hand on the edge of the table.

Draco stood and leaned over, offering her his arm and easily lifting her to her feet once she had grabbed hold.

“Thank you, ever so much,” she said.

Jasper came round the table, offering his arm in place of Draco's, “I shall accompany you to the floo, Mrs Fawley.”

She nodded, and took his arm as they made their way outside with a short goodbye. Robert only offered a faint nod goodbye before disappearing out the door. Draco was about to slip outside himself when Marion reappeared, readjusting her robes as she quickly tucked her wand away in the inner pocket.

“Draco! Walk to the apparition zone with me won't you?” She said, already nodding him towards the door without waiting for his reply.

Draco pulled the door open and held it for her, remembering bleakly that Marion Crabbe had always been the brains of the family when it came down to it. He had wondered once if it had been a disappointment to her that her son took after his father so much. It wasn't as if mattered now.

Draco pulled the door shut behind himself with the faintest of clicks and offered Marion his arm out of habit.

She placed her fingertips lightly on his arm, setting a sedate pace down the street to the apparition zone tucked away at the dead end of the alley. “I shall send you an owl of the next location of our little club,” she said as they walked.

“Next location?” Draco repeated.

Marion nodded, “We do like to get around, try all the little places. We have even tried a few muggle shops,” she said it as if it were quite scandalous. “They have all been fairly decent, if a little strange. Of course, even a monkey could manage to brew a decent cup of tea given enough time so we can't give them too much credit.”

Draco swallowed the bile at the back of his throat and nodded stiffly.

They stopped right in front of the apparition circle and Marion turned to him before stepping inside. She patted arm with a faint distant smile before looking up at him, “Next week, do wear a hat or a hood would you, dear? Your hair is so very distinctive.”

Draco had to swallow again before he trusted himself to speak. “Of course,” he said so smoothly he could almost feel his father's hand on his shoulder giving a squeeze of approval. He took a polite step back as Marion stepped into the circle and apparated with a muffled snap.

Draco shuddered, pressing his chin his chest and squeezing his eyes shut until he was certain he wouldn't faint. He stepped into the apparition circle and returned to Potter's flat, landed badly and nearly fell over the couch. He grabbed onto the plush fabric, his hands clutching like his life depended on it and he stayed there, breathing in the smell of Potter that lingered everywhere.

The light had almost gone. Draco didn't know where the day had gone. He hadn't managed anything. Except falling into a pit of vipers.

Draco slowly pushed himself up. He went to the little back hall, tempted to visit the toilet and throw up everything those people had given him but had something else he needed to get out much, much worse. He stepped into his lab and threw himself down on the chair.

He grabbed an empty vial from the shelf and it fell from his shaking hands onto the floor with a clatter. Draco snatched it up and threw it at the back wall in a fit of rage. Glass fragments ricocheted from the corner across the floor, glittering faintly under blue-white light.

Draco clutched his hands together, squeezing until they hurt, willing himself to calm down. He took deep breath after deep breath until he felt less like he wanted to tear and break everything he had left. His eyes stung. Draco pressed the heels of his palms into them until stars of light swam in his vision.

He took his wand out and vanished the broken glass as best he could before turning back to the shelf and taking down another empty vial. He pulled the rubber stopper out and step it aside. The tip of his wand was still warm from his skin as it pressed against his temple. He carefully recalled everything that had happened in the tea shop, pulling the wispy silver thread of memory out of his mind and putting it in the vial. He pressed the stopper back in, sealed it and tossed it into the corner of his worktable.

It was only a temporary relief. The memory in his mind was faint now, a series of abstract events without pictures or sound but they would come back. They always did.

Draco dragged himself out of the room and went to the kitchen. The machine was blinking a little green light, telling Draco the clothes were clean. He opened the door and pulled the whole wad out into the linen basket and carried it over to the couch. The couch squeaked as he sat with the basket in front of him, pulling out each piece and using an ironing charm, before slowly hand-folding them, and piling them on the cushions beside him. His mind blank.

A massive CRACK rent the air. Draco shot to his feet, stumbling backwards as he tried to fumble his wand out of his sleeve. His back hit the bookcase, shelves digging into his shoulders.

Potter wrenched his auror robes over his head , “I just can't fucking believe it,” he snarled, his eyes glittering with anger.

Draco let his wand drop.

“After everything I've done!” Potter went on, wadding his auror robes up and throwing them across the room where they poffed off the wall in a very unsatisfying way.

“What the fuck are you on about?” Draco said faintly.

Potter spun around, eyes widening, his whole body tensed for a fight and just as quickly relaxing, “It's you.”

“Expecting Merlin were you?” Draco tried to say it sarcastically but it came out strained.

“No. no,” Potter shook his head, roughly dragging his fingers through his hair. He took a shaky breath in, swallowed hard like it hurt, “I spoke to Robards,” his voice lost its anger with every word, “I tried to be smart about it, for once.”

Draco made a noise. He didn't know if it was encouraging or not but Potter went on.

“Talked to the other aurors first- I just-” He pulled on his hair, “I wanted to be treated like everyone else, regular hours, regular roster, regular rotation. I wasn't asking for special treatment!” Potter's hands balled into fists as the fury returned like a wind-whipped wildfire, “Is it too much to ask to be treated fairly for once in my life!?”

Draco gripped the edge of the bookcase.

Potter laughed an ugly laugh, “He demoted me. Put me on patrols! Patrols! Like a junior auror!” He stopped, his mouth pressing into a thin white line.


is my fault,

Draco thought.

The edge of the bookcase cut into his palm.

all my fault

“Haven't I put in my time? Haven't I done enough?” Potter seethed through clenched teeth, his words edged with so much frustration. "I just want to bloody well help people."

Draco chest ached.

like it was being crushed in a vice.

He had ruined everything.

Just as he always did.

Draco rolled the smooth wood of his wand over his fingers.

And without thinking